Portora Collegiate merger faces legal challenge



Education Minister John O’Dowd’s decision to approve the plans is now to be contested at the High Court, only weeks after the amalgamation was put back a year to September 2016 due to organisational reasons.

Judicial review proceedings have been lodged on behalf of a pupil at Collegiate in a bid to have the merger quashed and are expected to be heard in October.


Mr O’Dowd announced the closures of the two schools last November. At the time he insisted that he was focusing on the needs of children and young people, not on the institutions.

A petition against the plans, signed by 7,000 people, had been handed in at Stormont in an effort to preserve the schools.

Now the battle to stop any amalgamation has moved to the courts.

The legal challenge was originally brought in the name of a sixth form pupil at Collegiate.

But with the date of the planned merger now put back to September 2016, she will have left the school by that stage.

New papers will instead be submitted on behalf of a younger pupil, making the same case.

Lawyers are expected to argue that there was a failure to carry out a proper economic appraisal.


The impact on pupils possibly having to operate on a split site is also set to feature.

The Fermanagh Protestant Board of Education, trustees of the land at Portora Royal, are to be legally represented as a notice party in the case.

In court on Friday Tony McGleenan QC, for the Minister, indicated that he was unlikely to oppose the case progressing to a full judicial review hearing.

He added: “We would need to see (details of) the new applicant to see if there are any idiosyncratic issues.”

Mr Justice Treacy listed the case for a further review next month.

Speaking after the developments in the High Court on Friday Enniskillen Collegiate Principal Elizabeth Armstrong said:

“We are very pleased with the outcome today (Friday).

We note with interest the comments made and we look forward now to the full judicial review hearing at the beginning of October of what is clearly a matter of significant public importance for the future education of our young people.”

Portora Royal School principal Neil Morton said he did not believe the judicial review would impact upon the new school starting in September 2016.

“The judicial review is the outworkings of a perfectly legitimate process. Those who have undertaken it obviously feel very strongly that they need to explore every avenue before they collaborate with others in the founding of a new school.”

Mr Morton stated his belief that Education Minister John O’Dowd has followed all the correct procedures in making his decision and expected things to move as planned to September 2016.

“I think the Department of Education and Library Board have been through this enough times to know how to do it properly,” he added.

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