04 Oct 2022

High Court challenges brought by children with special needs over government's decision not to reopen schools

High Court challenges brought by children with special needs over government's decision not to reopen schools

Several High Court challenges have been initiated against the government's decision not to reopen schools for pupils with special education needs.

Some five test judicial review actions against the Minister for Education, Ireland and the Attorney General's decision earlier this month not to reopen the schools were mentioned before Mr Justice Charles Meenan at the High Court on Wednesday.

In their actions the applicants seek various orders injunction compelling the Minister and the State to reopen the schools to those with intellectual disabilities.

The judge adjourned proceedings to Monday's sitting of the court after he directed that the applications leave to bring the challenges be made in the presence of lawyers for the State.

Each of the actions have been brought on behalf of five school-going children, who are suing through their parents, with special needs who cannot be identified for legal reasons.

The case arises after the Minister said on January 19th last that the schools would not re-open during the current covid-19 restrictions due to a lack of cooperation from key staff trade unions.

The say that prior to the announcement, the respondents believed that it was appropriate that the schools should have re-opened as planed on January 21st last.

The parents fear for their children's mental and physical well-being and say that the schools should be reopened by the government.

The parents also claim that the National Public Health Emergency Team as well as the government deem schools safe to re-open.

In their actions the children's parents claim in their actions that the respondents have failed in their duties towards the children, who have various conditions including Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The court heard that some of the children involved have severely regressed in basic skills due to the school closures and the lack of supports they would normally get as part of their education.

In their separate actions the applicants seek an order compelling the Minister and the State to provide the children with an adequate and appropriate education, on the basis that the respondents have an obligation under the 1988 Education Act, and Article 42 of the Constitution. 

They also seek a declaration that the respondents have failed in their duty to provide for an adequate education for the children under the 1998 Act and Article 42.

They also seek injunctions aimed at compelling the state to the provide the children with appropriate and adequate education.

Mr Justice Meenan, who noted that the injunctions sought are mandatory in nature, made the actions returnable to Monday's sitting of the Court. 

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