Ireland: Home-Educating Mother Jailededitor
Today, I received an email from Dan Arnold, who was recently (Aug 23) elected Chair of Home Education Network (HEN), the oldest, biggest, and best-known home-ed representative group in Eire. He asks for our support in the case of a home-educating mother, a traditional Catholic, who has been imprisoned for what amounts to refusing to ask the State’s permission to home-educate her children – a right enshrined in the Irish Constitution. You can read the background to this case here The point is well made in this report that “The state could go to any school gate on any day and pick up an unfit parent, one that is addicted to intravenous drugs, whose children go to school hungry, unwashed or otherwise neglected. The state could spend their energy and money getting help for those families, who I see around me every day in Dublin city; children so sad and malnourished, drinking cans of Coke as they walk in the school gates, with eyes already dulled by years of mistreatment. I worked in a disadvantaged school and when I once asked the principal why didn’t social services get involved more in the many, many neglectful families, she said “where would they start?”. Instead, the state is picking on easy targets, fantastic parents who are taking a stand for families everywhere, Monica O’Connor and Eddie O’Neill. This is an absolute disgrace. How much in taxpayers money will go into Monica’s prison time, thousands that could be put elsewhere and actually do some good? I am so angry about this, I am just disgusted. I urge you all, whether home educators or not, to stand in support of Monica, sign the petition here, write to your TDs, email, ring them, do whatever you can or have time for to help us protect the rights of our families.”
As I read about the predicament of Monica and Eddie, I found myself thinking of the Ashya King scandal. It seems that “the State” – in Ireland as in the UK – holds to the erroneous opinion that it owns the nation’s children, with parents being cast in the role of caretakers, not to say something of a nuisance when they choose to differ from the “experts” – medical or educational – in the best interests of their offspring. Read the Press Release below and tell us if you agree. Source
PRESS RELEASE JULY 2014 Embargo 9am Wednesday 3 September 2014
A Carlow mother of 6 has been imprisoned for not paying a fine relating to the Constitutionally protected right to home educate her children
Monica O’Connor, 47, from Tullow, has 5 sons and a daughter, ranging in age from 6 to 27 years. Her husband Eddie O’Neill, 49, is also threatened with serving a prison sentence.
Article 42 of Bunreacht na hEireann, the Irish Constitution, acknowledges that parents are their children’s primary educators. Section 2 says “parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes..”
The former National Education Welfare Board (NEWB), whose functions were assumed in January by the Child and Family Agency of Tusla, summoned the couple to Carlow District Court, where they were fined €2,000 in June 2013 for “failing to cause” 2 of their children to attend school. The NEWB insisted that home educating families must apply to have their educational provision assessed for each child, in order to avail of their right to home educate. The couple maintain that this is akin to asking permission, which can be refused, so therefore is not a right. The family were sent School Attendance Notices to compel their then 12 year old son, Oran, and 9 year old daughter, Elva, to attend local primary schools.
The children have all learned at home for their primary years. The 2 eldest sat Leaving Certificate exams after 4 and 21/2 years of secondary schooling, respectively. The eldest, Darragh, 27, works in the bar of golf club in Hawaii and has maintained himself since leaving home to study 3 Bar Skills and Hotel courses with Failte Ireland, aged 17. The second son, Oisin, 20, completed a FETAC 6 in Acting and is auditioning for theatre work. The third, Emmet, 19, is finished the 2nd year of a 4 year Music Degree in Dublin Institute of Technology, gaining entry without a Leaving Cert. He started formal education aged 16, completing a FETAC 5 in Music and gaining entry by audition and entrance exam.
The younger 3 continue learning at home with their parents.
Today Gardai escorted Monica O’Connor to Mountjoy prison for not paying the fine. She could serve 5 days in respect of each of the 2 children.
A 16 minute documentary on youtube “Homegrown Knowledge” features the younger 4 children speaking about how they like to learn at home.
A petition has been started on change.org calling on the Minister for Education, Jan O’Sullivan, to intervene on the family’s behalf.
Further details on facebook page “Home Education Support Fund”.
Monica 086-8366569 Eddie 086-3538849