A Carlow mother of six, who also fostered twenty-two other children over the past twelve years, was imprisoned on 3rd September for not paying a fine relating to her constitutionally protected right to educate her children at home.
Monica O’Connor from Tullow has five sons and a daughter, ranging from six to twenty-seven years of age. Although her persecutors seemed to decide that the potential backlash they could face was more trouble than it was worth in this instance, and released her the same day from a potential ten-day imprisonment for 'good behaviour', her husband, Eddie O’Neill, is also threatened with serving a prison sentence.
Article 42 of Bunreacht na hEireann, the Irish Constitution, acknowledges that parents are their children’s primary educators. Section 2 says “parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes...”
The former National Education Welfare Board (NEWB), whose functions were assumed in January by the Child and Family Agency of Tusla, summoned the couple to Carlow District Court, where they were fined €2,000 in June 2013 for “failing to cause” two of their children to attend school.
NEWB insist that home schooling families must apply to have their educational provision assessed for each child, in order to avail of their right to home educate. The couple maintain that this relatively recent 'insistence' is akin to asking for permission that could be refused, so therefore contradicts and destroys the constitutional right.