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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Irish Government’s advisory group recommends taking schools away from Catholic Church

The domination of Irish primary schools by the Catholic Church must end, says a Government advisory group in an interim report.

The Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in primary schools delivered its interim report to the Department of Education inDublinlast week. It recommended a “rolling change” of patronage should be implemented that would remove most of the schools eventually from Catholic control. At present the Church controls 96% of primary schools (3,000 out of 3,200).

The group did not recommend a “big bang” approach which would see all schools taken from Catholic control in one go. The Government should start with more than 250 and consult parents about who the new patrons should be.

The group also recommended the abolition of the notorious “Rule 68” which states that “of all the parts of a school curriculum, Religious Instruction is by far the most important” and that primary duty of a teacher is to ensure a pupil observes God’s laws.

The forum was set up by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn earlier this year to identify ways in which to transfer schools out of Catholic patronage. It heard from over 200 interest groups including submissions by young people. It said it was not “re-designing” the primary education system in Ireland but rather “adapting a system to be more inclusive”.

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, said: “Ireland’s determination to dismantle the sectarian schooling system is to be admired. In a country that was so completely under the thumb of the Church until very recently, it is an example of what can be done to take education out of the hands of sectarian interests that are using it for evangelism and putting it back into the hands of parents.” UK Governments and legislative assemblies should take note.”

Meanwhile a poll in the Irish newspaper The Journal asked: “Should all education be non-denominational?” 70% of respondents said yes.

See also:

System of patronage “no longer appropriate”

What do Irish atheist parents do about educating their children?

What it’s like being a gay non-believing teacher in an Irish Catholic school

Published Fri, 25 Nov 2011