Parents of Belfast Irish language school pupil in Supreme Court bid to overturn DUP minister's decision
The parents of a child at an Irish language primary school are attempting to go to the UK's highest court in a bid to secure a move from its current 117-year-old building in west Belfast.
They are seeking to overturn a ruling that former Education Minister Peter Weir was entitled to refuse Gaelscoil an Lonnain's proposed relocation.
Senior judges in Belfast today formally refused leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
But the outcome clears the way for the parents to directly request a hearing in London.
Their solicitor, Michael Flanigan, confirmed: "My clients now intend to petition the Supreme Court to consider the issues in this case."
The school wants to move from premises regarded as being cramped and no longer fit for purpose.
With an enrolment of around 60 children, Gaelscoil an Lonnain currently operates at a building on the Falls Road which first opened in 1901.
In 2015 its Board of Governors submitted a relocation proposal to the Department of Education.
The plan was to move to the former site of St Comgall's School in the nearby Divis area.
Support was said to have been secured from the Education Authority, the Education and Training Authority and Comhairle na Gaelscolaiochta - the statutory body set up to advise the Department of Education on compliance with the obligation to facilitate the development Irish language education.
Mr Weir turned down the proposals in June 2016 amid concerns about the school's sustainability.
A judicial review was sought amid claims the Democratic Unionist MLA acted irrationally and failed to comply with a statutory duty to develop Irish medium education.
Lawyers for the parents who took the case also argued that irrelevant factors were taken into account.
In October 2017 a High Court judge backed their case, ruling that the Minister had not properly taken into account the views of Comhairle na Gaelscolaiochta, and described his approach at one point as being "too rigid".
At that stage his decision was quashed and a direction given for the development proposal to be reconsidered.
But last month judges in the Court of Appeal reversed the verdict by a two-one majority.
Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan and Lord Justice Deeny both held the Minister had been entitled to make the decision.
In court today Fiona Doherty QC, representing the parents behind the legal challenge, applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
She stressed there had been no objection to the development proposal from relevant authorities and surrounding schools.
"Issues were only raised when it reached the Department of Education, despite the fact that it was a cost neutral proposition and would allow this school to demonstrate its sustainability in a way its current position doesn't allow," Ms Doherty said.
However, the judges refused leave - again by a majority decision.
It means lawyers will now ask the Supreme Court to hear a case they believe has significant public importance.
Outside court Mr Flanigan claimed: "It would have ramifications for both the Irish medium sector and integrated education."
Belfast Telegraph Digital