Traveller mum feared son would ‘learn country ways’ at Limerick school

Case at Newcastle West court

Norma Prendiville

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Norma Prendiville

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norma.prendiville@limerickleader.ie

Traveller mum feared son would ‘learn country ways’ at Limerick school

Evidence was heard at Newcastle West court

THE mother of an 11-year-old boy who missed 65 days of school over the last year told the education and welfare officer from Túsla she was afraid that her son, if educated, would lose part of his culture.

“She didn’t want her child to have country ways,” Liam Rogers, education and welfare officer with Túsla said in evidence at Newcastle West court where the boy’s mother and father appeared before Judge Mary Larkin, charged with breaching the Education and Welfare Act. 

Mr Rogers said the boy was very bright and intelligent and would be one of the top pupils in his class but he missed 65 days in the school year 2016/207 and 85 the year before.

Various reasons were given for absence, the court heard, Nine days were covered by a medical cert, another because it was a fine day and on another occasion the school was told the boy had to go to a solicitor on business.

But the main reason, Túsla solicitor Derry O’Donovan said, was that, because her son,  a member of the Travelling community, “was being educated, she was fearful he would lose part of his culture”.

“She also indicated if it came to the point, she would have to send the child to England,” Mr O’Donovan said, explaining that the child’s father was away a lot. However, he continued, the mother had at all times being polite and co-operative and he was prepared to adjourn the case if the mother would give a sworn undertaking to the court to send her son to school.

““No person has ever been damaged by education,” Judge Mary Larkin said. “If that is her defence, it is not an adequate  defence,” she said.

“I would like Pavee Point to come and set out to me why they believe education is not appropriate for a member of the Travelling Community.”

The Travelling community lives in this country and are obliged to obey the laws of this country, the judge added.

“I assure you, the children in  Syria, Iraq and Mosul would be very happy to think they had a school to go to,” Judge Larkin said. “I do not accept you cannot send your child to school.”

The mother gave an undertaking to send her son to school and the  case was adjourned to October to monitor his attendance.