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Padraig O'Shea Photo by: Irish Independent

I'd do it again says Catholic principal who barred pregnant girl from school

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Padraig O'Shea Photo by: Irish Independent

An Irish school principal who refused to enroll a teenage girl because she was pregnant is now refusing to apologize. Padraig O'Shea, now the school manager of Saint Joseph's College in County Tipperary, has disputed the girl’s version of events and vowed he would do the same again.

O'Shea, speaking to the Irish Independent for the first time since the Irish Children's Ombudsman ruled that the Irish Catholic school had discriminated against the 16-year-old, insisted there 'must be standards of morality in every school and that is the wish of 99 percent of parents.'

Ombudsman Emily Logan told the press that the teenager applied to Saint Joseph's when she was pregnant and again after giving birth, but she was refused entry both times in 2009 and 2010.

O'Shea told the Independent that Logan and various politicians had 'gravely misjudged the moral integrity of the Irish people.' O'Shea added that he has received 'universal support' for his hardline stance and claimed Logan had refused to debate the issue on television with him.

'There is nothing to apologize for. I wish her every success in life,' O'Shea added.

'Parents appreciate discipline in a school. It is my duty to ensure that parents who repose confidence in me are duly rewarded, and my student body and my staff are people of the highest integrity and we shall retain our reputation in all respects. Simple as that,' O'Shea said.

The former principal retired in 2009 but he continues to work as school manager at the privately owned Catholic school, which has more than 300 male and female students.

'The teenager was in three schools before she sought entry here - the ombudswoman said she was in two schools. Now if you were principal, wouldn't that lead to questions?' he asked. 'Logan says she came a second time - I have no recollection of her coming a second time. There was also a statement made that students and teachers asked me to take her in. No student and no teacher ever asked me to take her in. Enrolments are done during the month of August when neither students nor teachers are present anyway.'

According to the Children's Ombudsman, the teenager said she felt 'hurt and discriminated against' after being refused admission to the school. 'I felt ashamed and embarrassed that someone could make me feel this way for being a single young mother,' she said.

The girl’s mother mother said that the school's actions had caused immeasurable damage to the girl's self-esteem, and that they had felt stigmatized and slighted as a family.

O'Shea countered that if faced with the same scenario again, he would still adopt the same stance and refuse the pregnant teenager entry.

'It took us an hour to get home from Mass the first day - the church is only up the road. They were holding us up and chatting to us in shops and all. They were saying congratulations,' he said. 'I got 92 letters in less than three weeks and several phone calls from past pupils and parents,' he added. 'Teachers from other schools supported me.'

'There was universal support. The ombudswoman gave me tremendous publicity - throughout Munster especially - and I thank her for it,' he scoffed.

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