It has been claimed in a court in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, that a secondary school operated an admissions policy that indirectly discriminated against a Traveller boy.

A ruling in the case involving 13-year-old John Stokes could have widespread implications for schools' admission policies across the country.

In December, the Equality Tribunal ruled that the Christian Brothers High School in Clonmel indirectly discriminated against Travellers.

It said that giving priority to those who had a father in the school was indirectly discriminating against Travellers, as very few of them had attended secondary school.

The case was taken on John's behalf by his mother Mary, who gave evidence in court today.

The matter is before Clonmel Civil Court as the school is appealing the decision of the Equality Tribunal.

The tribunal had ruled in John's favour, ordering the High School to offer him a place and to review its admissions policy to prevent indirect discrimination against pupils on any of the nine grounds covered by the Equality Status Act - gender, marital status, sexual orientation, age, family status, membership of the Travelling community, religion, disability and race.

John Stokes was not in court.

His mother said her eldest son is attending school in Fethard, away from his home town, and has to get a bus there every day.

Mrs Stokes is being supported in the case by The Irish Traveller Movement Independent Law Centre, which had lodged the initial complaint on behalf of the Stokes family.

It had argued that indirect discrimination occurs where an apparently neutral provision puts persons of a particular group covered by the Equal Status Acts at a particular disadvantage.

Representatives for the CBS High School told the court today that in the past ten years there had been eight applicants for enrolment from families of Travellers and all had been successful; John was the only one who did not get a place.

The court was told there was an oversubscription last year for first year students, with 174 applicants for 140 available places.

Counsel for Mary Stokes argued that one section of the admissions policy (the 'father/son' rule) effectively gave an unfair advantage to non-Travellers.

33 boys had brothers in the school, 16 had brothers who were former pupils and 36 boys on the list had fathers who previously attended the school.

A lottery had taken place and John and a number of other boys had not been successful.

He was the only Traveller child seeking a place last year.

He did meet the school's other admission conditions as he is a Roman Catholic and did attend a local feeder primary school.

Through his mother, and supported by the Irish Traveller Movement, the teenager took a case of indirect discrimination to the Equality Tribunal on the grounds that, as he was from the Travelling community, his father was statistically much less likely than people from the settled community to have had a secondary education.

As John was the eldest in the family, an older brother could not have been a past-pupil.

Lengthy evidence was given by both sides today, with the school denying its admissions policy was in any way discriminatory.

Judge Tom Teehan adjourned the matter to Monday, 4 July for final submissions from both sides.