Irish Supreme Court rules against publication of school inspection reports

In a landmark ruling, the first involving the Irish Freedom of Information Act, the Supreme Court ruled against the publication of school inspection reports in The Irish Times. The Court held that publication could lead to the compilation of school league tables.

Barney Sheedy, principal of Scoil Choilm in Crumlin, Dublin, won his appeal against a decision by the Information Commissioner ordering the Department of Education to release the reports. Expressing disappointment with the ruling, Fionnuala Kilfeather of the National Parents' Council said that the judgment "copper-fastened the lack of right to any official source of information whatsoever on the work of schools".

The Irish Times said it noted with regret the Supreme Court ruling, stating: "The motivation of the newspaper in seeking access under the Freedom of Information Act to school inspectors' reports was to secure details of literacy standards within primary schools. Our objective was to make this information available to parents to enable them to reach a more informed decision when selecting a school for their children.

The Irish Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin, is to examine how information in the reports can be made more widely available to parents.

Minister may act after ruling on schools (The Irish Times, 31 May 2005)