One of Ireland’s elite private schools, Blackrock College, has received $2.3m in grants from the American arm of the Ireland Fund, it has been revealed.
Figures provided to the Irish Times in Dublin by the American Ireland Fund (AIF) show that, in 2011 alone, the fee-paying school received US$2.27m from the fund – far and away the highest grant to any school in the Irish school system from the AIF in 2011.
According to the AIF, the purpose of the 2011 grant was to assist Blackrock’s “development programme”.
The AIF is part of the Ireland Funds, set up in 1976 by businessman Tony O’Reilly to promote peace, culture and charity in Ireland.
The Australian Ireland Fund, which is chaired by former Australian Rugby Union chief John O’Neill, is also part of the network.
The American branch, which raised US$23m (€17.7m) in 2011, confirmed that between 2008 and 2012 Blackrock received $2.3m in grants.
Last week, Taoiseach Enda Kenny attended an Ireland Fund event in Washington.
The contribution to Blackrock College accounted for 12 per cent of the AIF’s total grants of €17.3m to organisations across the island of Ireland in 2011.
AIF chief executive Kieran McLoughlin defended the decision to give funds to a wealthy, private school.
“It would be inaccurate to make a judgment of the fund’s educational policy on the basis of one recipient.
“The fund supports a range of projects from major university capital programmes to access education programmes for those with special needs or from disadvantaged economic backgrounds.”
Mr McLoughlin said that the AIF “does not just cater for one socio-economic group, but caters for all”.
He said that the money received by Blackrock College in 2011 “was just one of 40 gifts made in the education sector by the AIF in 2011″.
Mr McLoughlin told the Irish Independent: “Blackrock College approached a number of prospective donors in the US, primarily past pupils, setting out the case for support.”