Cronin v. Minister for Education and Science

Interlocutory application for mandatory injunction brought by the mother of an autistic four-year old against the Minister for Education and Science to provide her child a free and appropriate pre-school education. Right to free primary education appropriate to his needs; Article 13 (Effective Remedy) and Article 2 of the First Protocol (Right to Education) of the European Convention on Human Rights Act. 

Date of the Ruling: 
Jul 6 2004
High Court of Ireland
Type of Forum: 

In 2003, four year old Jeremiah Cronin, diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity and autism, was assessed as needing a 32-hour-per-week intensive home-based program to meet his special needs while awaiting placement in Cork CABAS School.  His mother instituted an action for injunctive relief directing the Minister for Education (“the Minister”) to provide such home-based tuition for 29 hours per week during the child’s pre-school phase.  She claimed that her son was entitled to a free primary education under the Irish Constitution, relying on the Irish Supreme Court’s reference to upholding children’s educational rights in Sinnott v. Minister for Education [2001] 2 IR 545, which involved the right to primary education of an individual living with autism. She also relied on the Section 6 objectives  of the  Education Act, 1998, (“the Act”) which promoted communication between the Minister and parents concerned about special needs’ children’s educational experiences, and Article 13 (Effective Remedies) and Article 2 of the first protocol (Right to Education) of the 2003 European Convention on Human Rights. In November 2003, the Minister for Education sanctioned home-based education, backdated to January 2003, for twenty hours. Contending that he had fulfilled his constitutional and statutory duties, he noted the Act considered the availability of resources to meet all children’s educational needs, and only required the use a reasonable approach in meeting Jerry’s needs. 

The High Court relied on the decision in Campus Oil Limited v. Minister for Industry and Energy (No. 2) [1983] IR 88 to grant the injunction. The court further found that damages were not an appropriate remedy for the plaintiff. It decided that without an injunction, the child’s educational progress would be hindered.

Keywords: Cronin v. Minister for Education and Science, Children, Disability, Education, Rights

Enforcement of the Decision and Outcomes: 

It is not clear how this case ended substantively.

Significance of the Case: 

This decision was seen as significant because the plaintiff was granted a mandatory order by the High Court in the context of a socio-economic right claim - albeit at the interlocutory stage. Such a development was considered highly unlikely following the Supreme Court’s refusal to do so in the earlier cases in Sinnott v Minister for Education and T.D. v Minister for Education. It should be borne in mind that this case turned primarily on the enforcement of the applicants statutory rights, which the majority in Sinnott had intimated would be different to seeking a mandatory order to enforce a constitutional right.