Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe has said that the decision to end funding to Protestant schools was the Cabinet's decision.

Minister O'Keeffe said that the legal advice on which the decision was based is not being made available ‘because precedent has it that you do not release advice of the Attorney General’.

‘My instruction is from the Attorney General's office that information cannot be released,’ he said.

Minister O'Keeffe rejected suggestions by the Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny that Protestant schools are being ‘got at’, saying ‘we recognise the special position that the Protestant Church has in our society’ and that he wants for that position to be maintained.

He said that the block grant introduced by the late Donogh O'Malley is still in place, a point on which he says Mr Kenny is ‘incorrect’.

‘It is very generous to Protestant fee paying schools,’ Mr O'Keefe added.

Speaking on his way into a Higher Education Authority conference in Malahide, Mr O'Keeffe said that when he met with Protestant bishops last November he indicated that the grants for Protestant schools ‘could not continue but that we should look at other ways that we could...target areas of greatest need'.

He said he had no response since.

At a meeting yesterday, Mr O'Keeffe said he ‘exhorted them’ to establish a working group, and said that ‘if there areas of particular need...having regard to the financial constraints that are there...I am willing to look at those’.