Non -Racialism, Multi- racialism and Racialism. Non Denominationalism, Denominationalism and Multi – Denominationalism

Segregation concerns over transfer of school patronage

Catholic schools’ spokesman Michael Drumm says ‘amalgamation is way forward’

 Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan: “I would like to see the divestment moving much quicker. However, it is a complex process that involves the agreement of a range of stakeholders and that takes time.” Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan: “I would like to see the divestment moving much quicker. However, it is a complex process that involves the agreement of a range of stakeholders and that takes time.” Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

To date, however, the church – which is patron to more than 90 per cent of primary schools – has yet to hand over a single school to another patron, although it did merge two schools in Basin Lane, Dublin, last April to allow Educate Together to move into a vacant building. One Church of Ireland school in Co Mayo transferred to Educate Together last September.

Mr Quinn’s successor, Jan O’Sullivan, insists that there is still life in the process but few people in education share her optimism. As the impasse continues, she is facing calls within her own party for a re-examination of the policy, amid claims that it allows the church to dictate both the pace and the nature of reform.

Members of the Oireachtas Committee on Education, including chairwoman and Labour TD Joanna Tuffy, have expressed concern that the divestment process is leading to “segregation on religious grounds”.

In a report on planned legislation governing admissions, the committee echoed some of the concerns of another Labour member John Suttle, who produced a widely discussed report in 2011 on the “Catholic-first” school entry policy. Suttle, who stepped down from the board of management of his local school over perceived Catholic discrimination, says “divestment is a Catholic process. It’s a way for the church to get the department to set up a non-Catholic school in an area so it can implement a ‘Catholic-first’ policy in its own schools.”

He says this is “creating segregation where there wasn’t any” and runs counter to the recommendations of the forum on patronage and pluralism, which reported in April 2012. “The forum never recommended a system where kids would be segregated on religious grounds,” says Suttle.

O’Sullivan however argues that the process is helping to give parents “a greater choice of school ethos”. She says: “Personally I would like to see the divestment moving much quicker. However, it is a complex process that involves the agreement of a range of stakeholders and that takes time. In 2015 I will be looking at the current arrangements for divestment to see if changes can advance the process.”

Fr Michael Drumm, chairman of the Catholic Schools Partnership, believes part of the problem was raised expectations, and he says Quinn’s talk of a 50 per cent change to patronage “scared local communities”. The transfer of schools to other patrons has proved difficult for a variety of reasons, including “huge local hostility”.

Arguing that the original plan is no longer realistic, he says “amalgamation is the way forward”. However, to achieve this, “financial supports need to be kept”. When schools merge, they find they can only access one set of grants rather than two, and if the department agreed to protect their collective funding , “it would help”, says Fr Drumm.

Educate Together also says the process needs to be better financed, pointing out that each school opening is costing it about €100,000, money it has to raise almost entirely through fundraising.

Debate is set to intensify when the Admission to Schools Bill comes before the Oireachtas as it reaffirms the right of denominational schools to give preference to children of a particular faith. The department has justified the retention of this right, articulated in section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000, on the grounds that parents now have a greater choice of school patronage.

However, the office of the ombudsman for children has called for section 7 to be amended so no publicly funded school can discriminate on religious grounds. The forum also advocated a review of section 7 on the grounds that it could impede the department’s “duty to provide for the education for all children”.

Quinn rejected this advice, along with the forum’s recommendation for rule 68 of the primary school code to be “deleted as soon as possible”. The rule states: “Of all parts of a school curriculum, religious instruction is by far the most important” and therefore “a religious spirit should inform and vivify the whole work of the school”.

Prof John Coolahan, the forum’s chairman, says Ireland cannot ignore the international context and its obligations under human rights conventions. “What I was hoping to do in the context of the forum was to avoid conflict at local level,” he adds. If people could see change happening on the ground, “you wouldn’t have social conflict”.

However, given the slow pace of progress in divestment, amid changing demographics and a rise in secularism, “I do believe it could become much rougher.

“This [the divestment process] was a way forward and I think the church were unwise not to adopt it as a rational way forward, which had been evolved in dialogue in a democratic society, whereby there was nobody closing down denominational schools.

“By holding on so tight to 92 per cent of the schools, denominationally controlled, I think they are being short-sighted, even in their own interest.”

Apartheid had a policy of separate development or in other words a policy of racism and it was much more entrenched than the notion of segregation. Ireland has a system of National School Education which has been subverted by both Denominational and multidenominational Education. National Education is Non Denominational and is protected by our constitution. No Apartheid and special interests. Stop using the word Primary Schools and embrace our great National School system.

One Response

  1. Regarding articles School Admissions Policies by Joe Humpriey’s on both Friday and Saturday 2nd and 3rd January 2015 in the Irish Times
    What about the Christian commandment Love thy neighbour
    Why are we segregating children from 4 years along apartheid religious lines from their neighbours ?
    Demanding Baptismal Certificates on admissions.
    Why are we dismantling undermining and ignoring the founding funding principles of the two pillars of National Education set out in the Stanley Letter of 1831
    (1) all children together under the same school roof
    (2) with separate religious religious instruction meaning no proselytism allowed.
    Why were those principles also contained in the Anglo Irish Treaty and carried through into the subsequent Constitutions.
    Why are we allowing DOE rules such as section 68 allow religious curriculum infuse the whole school day. Why are we ignoring the 1937 Constitution about not endowing meaning fund any religion and by allowing subservient legislation dictate distort and undermine those principles unconstitutionally such as section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000.
    Why have politicians ignored all of the above and leading society down a blind alley to greater segregation and division is it because they are merely weather vanes spinelessly unable to stand up for fundamental Children’s Educational Human Rights in the face of Machiavellian Education wants of flawed wounded and discriminating Churches who want to keep a grip on their flocks by educational controls.
    Is James Joyce s lament for Ireland still applicable “Oh Ireland my First and only love where Christ and Caesar go hand in glove” .
    So let us reboot to the good founding their I say Christian principles for state funding of Education not permitting religious apartheid because the founding documents National Archives in all National Schools had everybody sign a Bona Fide promise to accept all children.

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