Education Minister Norma Foley says ‘no other option’ but to withdraw recognition from parents’ organisation

Education Minister Norma Foley has defended the withdrawal of official recognition from the National Parents Council Post Primary (NPCPP), saying “there was no other option”.

he Department of Education took the decision last month saying the organisation declined to engage with an independent financial and governance review.

Ms Foley said the decision was “not taken lightly” and the NPCPP had been given “considerable latitude” over six or seven months to co-operate with the process. They had “point blank” refused to engage.

The NPCPP was the recognised voice of parents of post-primary students and most of its funding came from the department – it received €205,000 in 2019.

Ms Foley said there was “an obligation to ensure that all state funding is being appropriately managed and to make oneself available for an appropriate review of governance”.

“I am at a loss to understand why there was a lack of co-operation,” said the minister who was replying to a series of questions on the matter at a meeting of the Oireachtas Education Committee convened to discuss the 2023 spending estimates for her department.

She told Sinn Féin education spokesperson Donnchadh O’Laoghaire that any organisation in receipt of state funding must have oversight and “having a review doesn’t cast aspersions on any organisation”.

She said there had been engagement with NPCPP on the matter since last May but they didn’t feel in a position to engage with the review and after six months, the decision was taken to withdraw recognition.

“There was no other option,” she said.

Consultancy firm Governance Ireland, which was appointed following a public tender, went ahead with the review on the basis of publicly available information, including from the Companies Registration Office. A final draft of its report was shared by the reviewer with the NPCPP last month and Ms Foley said that “even at this point no comment has been made in relation to the draft review”.

The minister said she had not seen the draft and the decision to withdraw recognition was taken on the basis of the NPCPP’s non-engagement. She said she is awaiting the completed report.

Ms Foley came under sustained questioning from committee chair, Fine Gael TD Paul Kehoe, who, at a committee meeting in November, criticised a decision to delay funding for the NPCPP.

At the time Ms Foley said there were some outstanding questions to be resolved.

At today’s hearing, Mr Kehoe said he understood that the organisation had had governance issues, but they had been overcome and he felt it was “bizarre” that funding would be withdrawn without final publication of the review.

He said it seemed “short-sighted” to withdraw funding and to ask another body – the National Parents’ Council Primary – to come in to represent the views of parents of post-primary students.

Mr Kehoe asked why the minister hadn’t met with the NPCPP on the issue and she replied that it was “not appropriate” for her to meet them while an independent review was underway.


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