Piaras Kelly has a post on his blog about multi-culturism in Ireland and he raises some interesting issues.
He references a situation which hit the headlines here recently when children of non-Catholic parents were unable to access school places for their children.
I was appalled last week to read the comments of Anne McDonagh, director of education at the Archdiocese of Dublin, who stated that the Archdiocese is not interested in providing an education for children of parents who are not interested in a Catholic education. Speaking to the Irish Times (subscription required), McDonagh said â€œWe must stick to our enrolment policy of providing an education for Catholic children and siblings first. This enrolment policy has been public and unchanged since the Education Act 1998.â€ The comments came in the wake of an emergency school being built for 90 children who were unable to secure places in catholic schools.
While I agree with Piaras’ outrage at this situation, I think his anger is mis-directed.
The problem here is that successive Irish Governments have abdicated responsibility for educating the states children. They were happy to let the Catholic church educate the children because it saved the state a fortune!
And we now have the anomalous situation where the Dept of Education doesn’t employ any teachers! All teachers are employed by the individual school’s further avoiding any financial liabilities for the state if the teachers mis-behave.
As a result of this fiasco, the Catholic church stepped in and now run 90% of the schools in the country. This is something we should be grateful to the Catholic church for (and angry with the government for!).
The Catholic church has no mandate to teach children of non-Catholic parents – no more than we would expect a Buddhist school to be mandated to accept Catholic kids.
The education of children in Ireland is the State’s responsibility. If there are not enough non-denominational places in Irish schools, it is only because the state hasn’t provided them.
The running of the schools in Ireland by the Catholic church is an anachronism.
The Department of Education needs to face up to its responsibilities and take over the running our schools (it is the norm in every other country) and not leave it up to the church or any other organisation. This is not just my opinion, the UN has been telling the Irish Government this for at least two years now.