Education justice is duly served as Connacht fail the Leinster test

From time to time in public life, various matters happen which really hit the button in interest and which excite much commentary, both on radio, TV and in print media.

Rebecca Carter of Wexford was one such case last week. I was fascinated by it. A young 18 year old girl from a farming family took on the Department of Education in a wonderful David versus Goliath episode. We often read about these kinds of encounters but they are usually in other countries, but here we had it right on our own doorstep, the hallowed Department of Education in Marlborough Street, the State Exams Commission in Athlone and all the various paraphernalia which make up the august department were taken to the High Court by this young girl because there was a delay in giving her amended Leaving Certificate results to her.

Now, as we all know from reading the story, it wasn’t just a mistake on one paper, it was a compilation mistake whereby the examiner in question had marked each question correctly but then had inadvertently mismanaged the adding up of all the various marks on each question.

The appeal by Rebecca was accepted by the Department, but she was told it would be the middle of October before she would get her rightful grading from her Leaving Certificate. Knowing the misstep in the compilation, she knew exactly the marks she would get and it would get her the place she wanted in veterinary science in UCD, a long cherished dream of hers. The Department refused to move early on the case, and so it went before Mr. Justice Richard Humphreys in the High Court.

He gave a scathing reprimand to the Department and said he would give them two days until the following Friday to issue the correct result in time for UCD to offer her the place on its veterinary course.

For a few hours it looked as if the Department would appeal that again to the Supreme Court, but thankfully wiser heads prevailed and Rebecca got her result, then got her place in UCD and as I write this piece she is fully immersed in college life and studying to be a vet.

Well done Rebecca! You and your parents and family took courage in your hands and pressed the case and the result was justice all round. I’m so happy for her and I know the readers will feel the same. It was such a wonderful outcome. Rebecca presented herself so well on TV and radio and everywhere she was interviewed. She didn’t go on and on, she stated her case very simply, smiled a lot and awaited her just reward.

Well done to Mr Justice Richard Humphreys. I know him quite well. When I was a member of the Dáil in the early 2000s he was a personal adviser and assistant to Minister Ruairi Quinn, studying at night for his law degrees. We are very quick as a people to condemn what we might think would be a wrong decision by a judge and I hope we will be as quick now to hail this young judge for the fine judgment he gave in this case.

Next Friday, Saturday and Sunday the History Teachers’ Association of Ireland (HTAI ) is holding its AGM and seminar here in the Radisson Hotel in Athlone. They have asked me to do the official opening and I’m very pleased to do it, having spent several years myself teaching history.

The person who contacted me was Deirdre Mac Mathúna, daughter of the famous Irish musician and poet Ciarán Mac Mathúna. I have never met her but she was written some wonderful stuff on history and I am looking forward to meeting her.

It is all history at the moment what with the centenary of the vote for women in 1918 and now various upcoming lectures will commemorate the founding of the first Dáil and many other events going forward into the War of Independence and then the Civil War. I am looking forward to them all and to participating in some of them.

In Dublin, my granddaughter Jennifer O’Rourke attends Loreto Abbey in Dalkey. She is now in transition year and they seem to have a very fine coordinator who has contacted me and invited me to come to the school next Tuesday as part of their ‘Inspirational Women’ series.

Last year they had Mary Harney, the year before they had Miriam O’Callaghan, so now they have chosen me to be this year’s speaker for the transition year class. I’m delighted to be going and I very much applaud the spirit and the ethos of their programme, which the young woman in charge laid out for me on both email and telephone calls. I’m sure Jennifer will be shy at her grandmother lecturing them all, I know full well how young girls will feel about that. But I hope that we will all get off to a good start and I’m quite sure we will all enjoy one anothers company, the transition year class and myself. Young people now have such great opportunities in schools, far removed from what we would have encountered so many years ago.

Turning to rugby, Connacht got a right hammering from Leinster over last weekend and equally so Ulster at the hands of Munster. TG4 shows all these matches on a Saturday and as I said before it doesn’t matter if I can’t follow all the commentary as Gaeilge, at least you have the wonderful match played out in front of you and it makes for a very exciting late Saturday evening.

Then of course to crown it all, Strictly Come Dancing has started again on BBC1 which is a great extravaganza of costumes and dancing, wonderful, sometimes zany, judgments and all around a great two hours of entertainment. All that on top of the rugby – what more could one want?

I have had to change my going out habits to accommodate all of this TV watching. A married couple who were great friends with Enda and me have stayed on as my very great best friends, and we were used to going out together, the three of us, every Saturday night. We find now we are altering our plans to fit in with rugby and with Strictly Come Dancing!!

That’s my lot for this week. Talk with you all next week.

In the meantime go safely.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke

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