Past pupils at rugger-loving, unisex, feepaying Blackrock and Belvedere Colleges have written to alumni urging them to campaign against the Education Bill which is intended to remove “soft barriers” to admission by forcing schools to publish entrance policies.
The Belvedere students’ union has circulated a smug sample letter directed against Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan, claiming the bill was “a stealth tactic, to destroy private institutions like Belvedere College”. The bill would also allow schools to prioritise siblings of past or present students and the children of staff, but only as part of a transparent process that is subject to external review. But the privileged ones are most enraged by a provision that would limit schools’ rights to guarantee places to children of past pupils. Blackrock’s campaign is fronted by Shane Murphy, senior counsel and giant who was a charismatic auditor of UCD’s L and H debating society thirty years ago, and who subsequently spent a spell as a French Tridentine novice, immersed in the ascetic pleasures of the Latin mass.
Murphy could argue his way out of a plastic bag, but he should champion causes that deserve him. When publishing the draft bill, former minister for education and Rockman, Ruairí Quinn proposed 25 per cent of places could be reserved for such pupils but an Oireachtas committee has since recommended no such quota be allowed.