Public Interest Essay, January 2010.
It was during the late 1990s when law relating to special educational needs became an extremelyhigh-profile issue. There was a series of court cases against the state initiated by parentsattempting to obtain improved educational provision for their children who had autism and/or severe and profound learning disabilities. As Gerry Whyte observed, “litigation strategy wasconsciously pursued in an attempt to compel what was perceived as an indifferent politicalsystem to devote more resources to these particular marginalised groups”.
These cases created a journalistic
and academic furore around this issue
especially the decisions made by the HighCourt and Supreme Court in
Sinnott v Minister for Education.
gives three reasons for the arrival of this issue before the courts. The first of which is,during latter half of twentieth century there was dramatic development of appropriate educationalcourses for persons with learning disability and a shift in emphasis away from medical care tosupport systems involving the combined efforts of physicians, psychologists, teachers and other workers. The reasoning behind the initial medical care stance was that traditionally, theDepartment of Health was responsible for the education of children with severe/profound generallearning disabilities, which resulted in the dominant view that education for these children principally consisted of meeting their medical needs.
Sean Griffin and Michael Shevlin,
Responding to Special Educational Needs, An Irish Perspective
(Gill&MacMillan, 2007), at page 54.
Fintan O’Toole, "With the greatest of respect, your honours, this is a mess.”
, 14 July 2001.
Conor O’Mahony, “The Right to Education and ‘Constitutionally Appropriate’ Provision” (2006) 28 DublinUniversity Law Journal 422.
 2 IR 545.
Social Inclusion and the Legal System: Public Interest Law in Ireland
(Dublin: Institute of PublicAdministration, 2002).
Griffin and Shevlin, note 4, at 55.