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School patronage

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    Letter to the education correspondent of the Irish Times which is really gobsmacking:

    The recent statement by Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell that evidence of Christian belief in Ireland today has for all intents and purposes vanished highlights the problem faced by those of us tasked with the management of Catholic schools. What are the implications for our core responsibility for transmission of faith?

    Really? The principal of a school (or chair of a BOM - or maybe they're both) sees their core responsibility as not education, but "transmission of faith"? 😡 and we fund this with our taxes...!

    Quote from the reply:

    But we need to liberate those many teachers whose authenticity is undermined in the minds and hearts of their students when they have to pretend to carry out the task of faith formation they do not believe in.

    Their personal beliefs are not relevant to their "success" in "faith formation". It quite simply should not be happening or attempted in any taxpayer funded school. It appears Mr IT Education Correspondent would be totally fine with it, if it was "working". 🙄

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    Good letter in response yesterday from Education Equality:

    https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/faith-formation-in-schools-1.4668414

    Sir, – Brian Mooney provides persuasive arguments for removing religious instruction from schools (“Should we expect Catholic schools to transmit faith?”, Education Opinion, September 7th). His words carry added authority given his decades of experience working within the Irish Catholic school system.

    It is refreshing to hear Brian Mooney acknowledge that many teachers are not practising members of any religious community. In effect, their teaching contracts impose a system of enforced hypocrisy in which their human rights to freedom of religion and belief and freedom of conscience are systematically breached.

    Opponents of change will often seek to portray those calling for it as “anti-Catholic”, an argument that is blunted when those calls come from professional educationalists working within the very system they seek to defend, not to mention from figures in the church itself.

    The more difficult truth is that the church and its teachings are simply irrelevant to a growing cohort of the population, including many families with children attending church-run schools. These families do not require their children to receive religious instruction and do not consent to it.

    As with all public services the buck stops with the State, which has failed to put effective measures in place to protect children and teachers from religious discrimination.

    As this debate rages on the pages of your newspaper, the silence from Minister for Education Norma Foley and her department is deafening. – Yours, etc,

    DAVID GRAHAM,

    Communications Officer,

    Education Equality,

    Malahide,Co Dublin.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato



    Living abroad, he walked tall. He laughed a lot, had a certain ease about him. Within weeks of moving back to Ireland, he began to keep his head down. He kept his coat on, fully zipped up. He got sad.

    Aged eight, my boy started his life in Ireland in Communion year in the local Catholic school. He spent up to an hour a day at the back of the class whilst the rest of the students prepared for the sacrament. He was given pictures, often holy pictures, to colour in. When they went to the church, he was offered the Bible to read. When the priest came to visit, he stayed in the classroom. He just didn’t put his hand up.

    The school was lovely. There was no malice in anyone. But my son felt left behind, different, lacking.

    We moved him to a multi-denominational school the following year. We were lucky to have the option of a move, but it was across the city. He has few local friends now. He can’t walk home from school like other children in his community.

    Is this experience usual? It’s hard to believe it is. Over 90 per cent of our primary schools are under Catholic patronage and spend up to 2½ hours a week teaching religion or faith formation; yet our population is growing ever more diverse.


    In practice, however, surveys indicate that many faith-based schools offer little in the way of detail on opt-out arrangements. In many cases, say schools, they do not have the resources for alternative classes, so many remain doing the classes or colouring while others learn.

    Opt Out Rights is a newly-formed group of teachers, principals, parents, and academics who are concerned over what they describe as the lack of an effective option.


    Numerous principals of Catholic schools declined to comment on the record when approached.

    One who spoke on condition of anonymity said that, in practice, they have been making extensive efforts to ensure all pupils are welcome and have been doing so for decades.

    “One of the great successes of modern Ireland is how many people from different cultures and languages have been welcomed and integrated into Ireland; Catholic schools have been key to that and have really stepped up the mark,” says one Catholic primary school principal.

    “It’s just not my experience that non-Catholics are excluded in any way or stuck at the bottom of the class colouring . . . most non-Catholics are happy for them to learn the patron’s programme, because at the end of the day it’s about love and understanding.”

    🙄

    Really annoys me how the RC schools paint this as only an issue for non-Irish parents. They just can't bear to admit that more and more Irish parents don't want anything to do with the catholic church. Just look at the marriage statistics - more non-religious marriages than catholic - what type of school do they think these parents will want?


    Another principal, however, acknowledges that faith and patron’s programmes can be an obstacle, especially with the time dedicated to Communion and Confirmation.

    “Our primary schools are just very Catholic in the language we use, in our rituals, in our school calendar. Our big events are Christmas and Easter and of course the sacraments. We’re just busy getting on with it,” the principal says.

    “Most schools would be happy to change. That is, the teachers would be happy to change. You have progressive priests out there too. But they all answer to the diocese and the bishop, and the Church is highly sensitive to any criticism, so their hands are tied.”

    Divestment is a process designed to fail and the Department of Education is happy to do nothing.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    Letter in today's IT in response to the above:

    Sir, – The emergence of a new group highlighting the lack of an effective opt-out from religious instruction in our schools is welcome (“Are we failing non-Roman Catholic children in our primary schools?”, Education, October 12th).

    The Department of Education says that opt-out policies depend on schools’ particular circumstances. The treatment of opted-out pupils is curiously similar around the country, however, and appears to be driven not by local issues but by a desire to make the process as intimidating and ineffective as possible.

    Why do opted-out children invariably remain in the classroom during these lessons, despite having a constitutional right not to attend?

    Why is religious indoctrination woven into every imaginable subject through the integrated curriculum, which teaches children that “Puberty is a gift from God”?

    This is due not to a lack of resources but to a wilful disregard for human rights.

    The assertion that “most non-Catholics are happy for them to learn the patron’s programme” does not reflect the views of the many families who have shared their experiences with Education Equality.

    Parents are understandably reluctant to make their children feel different at school. It is disingenuous to describe them as happy when the alternative involves the risk of stigma and distress.

    The reference to the integration of “people from different cultures” implies that to be Irish is to be Catholic and that those born and raised here are not affected by this issue. This is untrue on both counts. Half of all Irish marriages are now celebrated in secular ceremonies.

    We need to listen to families who do not want their children to be evangelised at school. Their rights in this area have been ignored for far too long. – Yours, etc,

    DAVID GRAHAM,

    Communications Officer,

    Education Equality,

    Malahide,

    Co Dublin.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    Letter in yesteday's IT:


    Sir, – Archbishop Eamon Martin’s apologia (“Why I am taking part in service to mark partition”, Opinion, October 19th) for his attendance at the controversial church service in Armagh, planned for October 21st, strikes me as sanctimonious and unconvincing. Surely if he and other church leaders want to promote peace and reconciliation, it would be more useful to start immediately to create interdenominational school systems in Northern Ireland? – Yours, etc,

    SHANE BUTLER,

    Rathfarnham,

    Dublin 16.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato



    Our children were those kids sitting at the back of the class, feeling self-conscious and isolated. They were surrounded by religious imagery, had unannounced visits from the priest (so we had no option to withdraw) and learned prayers and religious songs by osmosis. 

    During 2nd class, our son was told that he wouldn’t be going to heaven by his friend, as he wasn’t getting ‘his communion’. This, the notion of heaven, was the worst of all, as our children learned that their family’s belief system was wrong.

    We had no choice but to leave their otherwise wonderful school. We moved them to the nearest Educate Together and so for five years, my wife’s day has been book-ended by two one-hour commutes, in between which she works. 

    It is a scandal that our kids cannot simply walk to school with their friends, a school which our taxes help to fund (and recently extend). This ‘take it or leave it curriculum’ is not benign: apart from the treatment of those who try to ‘opt-out’, it means that thousands of parents submit their children for sacraments, under duress and that many of their teachers must perform a false religiosity. 


    Last week, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment reopened its consultation process for the Draft Revised Primary Curriculum Framework. 

    Opt-out Rights Ireland, a newly formed group of school leaders, parents, teachers, and academics, has made a detailed submission to the NCCA outlining how the document contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights.

    Entitled The Need for Effective Opt-Out from Faith Formation: A Response to the Draft Primary Curriculum Framework, it highlights the obligation on governments, set out by the European Court of Human Rights, to protect students from religious indoctrination, contrary to their or their parents’ wishes, in publicly funded schools. 

    The draft curriculum clearly does not meet this standard, as it fails to provide for an alternative to ‘faith formation’ and foresees the continuation of the ‘integrated curriculum’ whereby religion is allowed to permeate secular subjects, such as science, history.

    This, despite the issue being flagged in several Children’s Rights’ Alliance reports and by the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, who asked the Irish Government to "ensure accessible options for children to opt-out of religious classes and access appropriate alternatives to such classes".

    The impact of this discrimination can no longer be minimised or ignored, particularly since the collapse of the divestment charade. 


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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    Calling it "faith formation" is a nonsense anyway, it doesn't "form a faith" in any child who isn't also getting a strong dose of religion at home, rendering the entire exercise a complete waste of time for all concerned.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato



     The UN must raise the issue of religious discrimination Irish schools with the Dublin Government, Atheist Ireland has said.

    “Ireland is no longer a Catholic country. We are now a pluralist country with Catholic laws that we are gradually dismantling. The most important next step is removing the anachronistic control that the Catholic Church has over the education of our children,” it said in a statement.

    It follows a report in Monday’s Irish Times which said “slow” progress was being made in providing access to multi-denominational education in the State with new figures showing that Catholic schools account for 89 per cent of primary schools in the state.

    These new figures shows that, despite a Government commitment to provide 400 multi-denominational primary schools by 2030, there are currently 164 multi-denominational schools in Ireland compared with 2,750 Catholic primary schools in Ireland.

    “Even if they existed, having 400 multi-denominational schools would not solve the problem, as most parents would not be able to access these schools,” Atheist Ireland said. It also pointed out that “multi-denominational schools are still religious schools. They do not respect the freedom of conscience of atheist families.”

    What was needed, it said, were “non-denominational schools, which treat everyone equally and do not promote either religion or atheism”. As “an immediate step” Irish schools “must allow children to leave the classroom during religion class”, it said.

    The group has made a complaint to the Irish Comptroller and Auditor General about this “as schools that receive public funding are constitutionally obliged to do this”, it said. It has also complained to the Comptroller about what it describes as “the misuse of public funds regarding the teaching of religion in Irish schools”.

    It has asked the UN to raise with the Irish Government the issue in schools of a “right to objective sex education, and section 37 of the Employment Equality Act, which allows publicly funded schools to discriminate against teachers on the ground of religion”.


    In a statement, the department said 400 multi-denominational primary schools by 2030 remained the Government’s objective.

    It said almost 100 new primary and post-primary have been established since 2011 with a multi-denominational ethos.

    A further 20 new multi-denominational primary schools have been established under the patronage divestment process and a more recent “reconfiguration” process.

    Four years ago the department requested Education and Training Boards to identify pilot areas where there was likely to be unmet demand for multi-denominational education and to conduct surveys of pre-school parents in these areas.

    The department has refused to release the findings of these surveys to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    Letter in today's IT:

    Sir, – Ten years into the school divestment process launched with much fanfare by former minister for education Ruairí Quinn in 2012, one might have expected the Government and Department of Education to finally admit defeat (“Progress on multidenominational schools too ‘slow’”, News, January 10th).

    Instead, both seem wedded to the fiction that this failed initiative remains a credible and appropriate response to the tectonic shifts that have taken place in Irish society over the last 30 years with respect to religious belief and practice. It is not.

    The Government’s stated target of 400 multidenominational schools by 2030 is both hopelessly optimistic and woefully inadequate.

    According to the official figures, 20 schools have been divested in the last 10 years but another 236 schools must be divested within the next eight.

    This assumes that one accepts the department’s rather flexible understanding of the term “multidenominational”, which includes many schools that are actually interdenominational as well as others oxymoronically described as “multidenominational with a Catholic ethos”, which offer religious instruction during the school day.

    Even if the Government’s target is reached on schedule, however, it would still represent only about 12 per cent of all primary schools.

    With half of all marriages already being celebrated in non-religious ceremonies, we are trying to drag our education system into the last century, not this one.

    For many years now the Government has stressed the importance of listening to the voices of parents, yet it is allowing these same voices to be silenced by refusing to publish the results of numerous parental surveys.

    It has also allowed small rural schools to be “reconfigured” behind closed doors without any parental consultation whatsoever. Parents around the country are being ignored, whether they are surveyed or not.

    For their part, far from supporting the reconfiguration of patronage, the bishops appear intent on leveraging the process to extract concessions from the State, thereby frustrating the efforts of a growing number of non-religious families to assert their human and constitutional rights.

    Education Equality believes that religious instruction and worship should be offered on an optional basis after school hours to those who want it, rather than being imposed through the State curriculum on those who don’t.

    While we have not yet had the opportunity to make our case to Minister for Education Norma Foley in person, we would greatly appreciate if her Government would drop the divestment charade in favour of something a little more substantive.

    It’s getting embarrassing. – Yours, etc,

    DAVID GRAHAM,

    Communications Officer,

    Education Equality,

    Malahide,

    Co Dublin.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    Very good article from Fintan O'Toole in the Irish Times:


    It's subscription only, but here are the most salient points:

    The core of the plan to deal with this incongruity was so-called voluntary divestment. The church would gradually hand schools over to other patrons such as Educate Together.

    I wrote here at the time that this plan was “disastrous” and would result in at best 50 of the then 3,169 Catholic primary schools becoming multidenominational. This was not a blinding insight – it was patently evident that the church would make only the most token efforts at divestment.

    And so it has turned out. In 2012, 91 per cent of primary schools were Catholic. In 2022 the figure is 89 per cent. My bleak suggestion that a mere 50 schools might be divested was overly optimistic. The number of new multidenominational schools created under the divestment process stands at 20.


    In the decade since the divestment policy was created, we’ve had referendums on same-sex marriage and abortion, both of which suggested that Irish society no longer wished to define itself as Catholic. In 2020, 42 per cent of weddings in Ireland were civil ceremonies; just 35 per cent were Catholic.

    Practising Catholics – defined as those who attend Mass every week – now make up just 27 per cent of the population. And since many of those are older people, it seems highly likely that they form a lower proportion of parents with children of primary school-going age.

    Even the Catholic bishops increasingly recognise that the church now lacks the institutional capacity to manage primary schools. Last year the Bishop of Clonfert, Michael Duignan, asked rhetorically, “Can we continue to act as patron of so many primary schools?”

    Yet the Government pretends it can manage this major change with minor measures. The official aspiration right now is to have 400 multidenominational primary schools by 2030. Even if that target is reached (and this is highly doubtful), it will still amount to a small fraction of the 2,750 Catholic schools.


    And what continues to happen inside schools – especially in rural areas where parents have no real choice about where to send their children – is that non-Catholic children have to be segregated from their classmates for significant amounts of time during the day when religious instruction is in progress. (In the developed world, only Israel devotes more time to religion in primary school than Ireland does.)


    Still though it's wrong to give the impression that urban parents have a real choice, often they don't and may have an extremely oversubscribed ET to apply to, or no non-catholic option at all. Applying to an ET if you live outside of its catchment area is hopeless.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato



    Another good article.

    We really need a citizens' assembly on this, because left to their own devices politicians will cravenly continue to do nothing on this for decades just as they did with abortion.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    Letter in today's IT:

    Sir, – Article 44: 4 of the Constitution is clear when it states that “denominational management” must not “affect prejudicially the right of any child to attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction at that school”. I would suggest that frequent recourse to the rather numinous notion of “ethos” by denominational managers does “affect prejudicially” the right of many children to vindicate this explicit constitutional entitlement.

    In addition, Article 44:2 of the Constitution – which may seem to be at variance with historical practice – quite properly “guarantees” that the State will not “endow any religion”. In the interest of social harmony and cohesion, it is imperative that the funding of sectarian indoctrination by the State must be phased out as quickly as possible. The State should have no role in subventing sectarian “faith” schools or maintaining their sectarian “ethos”. If religionists wish to establish “faith” schools, their right to do so is guaranteed under the Constitution. But these institutions should not be funded by the State in any way.

    If parents wish to indoctrinate their children, they are free to do so in their churches, mosques, synagogues, mandirs and temples. Indoctrination, no matter how nuanced or elliptical, has no place in any educational system.

    Given the cultural and political importance of religions, though, some account has to be taken of them educationally. However, this should not be done in a proselytising context. Religions and their mythologies are best studied critically, philosophically, and anthropologically in relation to the social and historical circumstances which gave rise to them.

    This would not in any way inhibit the constitutional right of any citizen to practice their religion as they see fit but would rather promote a greater understanding of the way in which these frequently divisive belief systems came into being and evolved.

    As an academic discipline, comparative religion is a fascinating and rewarding field of study. “Faith” is another matter entirely. – Yours, etc,

    PAUL McGUIRK,

    Dalkey,

    Co Dublin. 

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    There's a stand-off developing between my younger child's primary school and the parish.

    The parish hall adjoins the schoolyard and has always been used for assemblies, PE, school play etc. and the school made an annual donation to the parish in return. I don't know how much but there was never any fundraising specifically for this so it can't have been that much

    Then of course it was lockdown so PE was outside, no assemblies or plays etc. so it hasn't been used by the school for close on two years

    Now that restrictions are lifted, the parish is looking for €30 an hour from the school to use the hall! The parish's income must be way down, but this is unaffordable for the school and not realistic to fundraise for so they are looking at other options e.g. the council's sports centre which should work out cheaper, but the kids will have to walk 10 mins there and the same back and if it's raining then PE will probably be cancelled.

    Lot of anger among parents about this. The school has been in touch with the CoI school representative body but they can't do anything, the parish owns the hall so they can do what they want.

    The number of CoI parishoners has been shrinking for years and it's only non-CoI parents (a large majority) like us keeping the school open.

    It's both the only non-RCC option around here and the only co-ed option around here.

    At least my elder child is in secondary and the younger only has a year and a bit to go, but I feel really sorry for parents of younger kids, the majority of their primary education could be affected by this nonsense.

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  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 24,239 Mod ✭✭✭✭ robindch


    The school should counter by offering the local priest supervised access to the school to teach religion, at €30 per hour per student.



  • Registered Users Posts: 233 ✭✭ NedsNotDead


    @Hotblack Desiato So you've spent years on this forum giving out about religion and campaigning for religion to be removed from schools yet you send your kids to a religious school.

    Some bang of hypocrisy around here



  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 15,307 Mod ✭✭✭✭ smacl


    Mod warning: Firstly, attack the post and not the poster, implying another poster is a hypocrite is not acceptable. Secondly, most people in this country do not have a choice of which school they can send their kids to. Schools are oversubscribed, non-denomination ones even more so. That is pretty much the point of this entire thread.



  • Registered Users Posts: 233 ✭✭ NedsNotDead


    @smacl ahh yes I forgot. The first commandment in this thread "thou shall not criticise one of the Mod's pets". Good to see censorship is alive and well here.

    No need to reply. Just ban me from this thread



  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    There is no non-religious option, but thanks for your empathy 🙄

    Do you suggest I should move (where??) or perhaps emigrate?

    But my taxes are as good as the taxes any other parent in that school pays.

    BTW if you'd bothered to read my post properly, you'd know that most families sending their children to that school are not CoI.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 233 ✭✭ NedsNotDead


    Keep the excuses going Buddy. Whatever keeps your conscious ticking at night



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  • Registered Users Posts: 233 ✭✭ NedsNotDead





  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    So you are saying i should be sending my kids to a school which doesn't exist.

    Post edited by Hotblack Desiato on

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  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 19,008 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Bannasidhe


    MOD

    This is not the first time I have had to warn you to keep it civil. It will be the last. Sanctions will follow if you do not stop. This warning applies across the A&A forum, not just this thread.



  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 15,307 Mod ✭✭✭✭ smacl


    Mod: Infracted for backseat modding. Please do not reply in thread. Any response via PM or to the feedback thread only please. Thanks for your attention.



  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    Interesting development in relation to the hall. It turns out that some years ago when it was built a particular family funded this and attached a condition that the hall be made available free of charge to the school for assemblies and PE. So these will now be resuming. Good result for the school and the pupils, I suppose the parish is going to have to look elsewhere for another source of cash... we all know that school 'fundraising' really means soaking the parents for money - bad enough when it's paying for educational activities / materials the Dept of Education should be funding, but in this case it would have meant diverting funds from parents, via the school, into the church's funds.

    So much for the 'valuable input into education' blah blah some people still go on about...

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  • Registered Users Posts: 23,325 ✭✭✭✭ Peregrinus


    Last line doesn't make a lot of sense. You've just reported a case where a parish constructed a hall and committed itself to providing the use of the hall to the school for assemblies and PE, for free, indefinitely, so avoiding the need for the school to find any resources to provide its own hall. You don't consider that a valuable input?



  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    But that wasn't the parish, it was a member of the parish who funded it. If the school had been an ET (if such a thing existed then) they could have funded it just the same.

    A church or parish acting as a conduit for other people's funds does not necessarily provide ownership of what is constructed with those funds. Or, as we have seen in this case, they got ownership but not without conditions.

    That's all long in the past though. Post-lockdown, the parish has obviously seen a dramatic drop in its income (on top of the congregation being dwindling for a long time). To then try to turn to the school as a source to replace that income is disgraceful.

    Post edited by Hotblack Desiato on

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,056 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    Meanwhile, president of a country with an extremely high percentage of sectarian schools gives out about a place with a slightly lower percentage of sectarian schools:


    In his speech, Mr Higgins said “93 percent of schools in Northern Ireland remain segregated” by religion, and that young people in the Northern Ireland were “segregated not only by the schools they attend, but also by the languages they speak and the sports they play: where some schools offer Gaelic football and hurling, others provide rugby or cricket, usually exclusively.

    Whereas "down here" the figure for primary schools is closer to 95%, and yes there are plenty of schools which consider themselves more exclusive than others, largely down to the sports they offer - and we have parents choosing to segregate their kids on the basis of language, too.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 23,325 ✭✭✭✭ Peregrinus


    I think you're making a false distinction between the parish and the members of the parish; the parish is its members. If the parishioner or parishioners who got together the money for this hall decided that the hall would be available to the school as well as for parish functions, that's the parish acting, not some constraint being imposed on the parish by an external power.

    And it's clearly not "long in the past", since the parish is still abiding by the decision that it made at the time.



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  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 15,307 Mod ✭✭✭✭ smacl


    Excuse the ignorance of a lifelong atheist, but is the parish a democratic body? Who within the parish, and how, are such decisions arrived at? Who has final say and ultimate executive power?

    My assumption was that in times past where the country was made up of 90+% of practising Catholics, there was little distinction between the parish and the local population. This is no longer the case. If the ongoing maintenance of a local public facility is provided for by the local population or national government, that is no longer the same as it being funded by the parish.



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