Minister Shane Ross criticised after €150,000 awarded to private school in his constituency

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross has been criticised after grant applications by 30 public schools were turned down before one was awarded to Wesley College in Dublin.

The private fee-paying school, which is located in Minister Ross' constituency, was awarded the highest possible sports grant.

The Department of Sport received 48 grant applications from schools in Ireland.

According to The Sunday Business Post, Wesley College received €150,000 for a new hockey pitch. The school applied for the grant in partnership with the YMCA hockey club.

However, 30-publicly funded primary and secondary schools missed out on the funding they applied for.

Among these were St Mary's Secondary School in Edenderry, Co Offaly who applied for €92,000 for a multi-sport playing pitch; and Scoil Mhuire Community School in Clane, Co Kildare which wanted €150,000 for an athletics track.

A Department spokeswoman said that Minister Ross provided no support to any of the applicants.

Sinn Féin spokeswoman Imelda Munster questioned said that Minister Ross is "out of touch".

"The fact that he had taken to Twitter - I think it actually shows that he's out of touch, that he would tweet an allocation such as that and boast about it, whilst there were 30 publically-funded schools left without any grant, in far more need," she said.

Fianna Fáil Education Spokesperson Thomas Byrne has called for greater transparency around the awarding of sports grants to schools.

Deputy Byrne said: “Schools will be watching with interest the recent award on appeal of a massive sum of public money to one private school which already has significant facilities.

He added: "It seems that some schools have an 'in' with certain Ministers while others simply are not given the information.

“The Ministers for Education and Sports must give a level playing field to all schools. When two south Dublin Ministers are claiming credit for a massive sports grant to a private school while most don’t know how to apply, something is wrong.

“A ministerial circular is urgently needed to explaining how schools can apply for a sports grant. It needs to happen soon or the stench of unfairness will continue to hang around this process.”

Dublin Labour Senator Kevin Humphreys also expressed his concern regarding the allocation of school sports grants.

"I think anyone reading this article would have been jarred by the revelation that 30 public schools had their applications for sports grants turned down this year, while a fee-paying school in the Minister's constituency in South County Dublin received the highest possible amount," he said.

"The apparent unfairness that a school which already has several rugby, football and astro-turf hockey pitches, as well as basketball courts, a gym and athletics track, is to receive €150,000 from the Government to build a new hockey pitch, while a community school in Tallaght was turned down an application for a five-a-side pitch, is glaring."

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