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Martin addresses schools patron issue

June 20, 2011

Catholic Patronage of a school “does not on its own bring about a truly Catholic culture to a school”, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, has said. “The current discussion on changes in school patronage is not just about management or ethos or about numbers,” he said yesterday. “Catholic identity cannot be separated from the level of faith of the community within which the school belongs.”

His comments anticipate the Department of Education’s Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector , which begins in Dublin on Wednesday and continues until lunchtime on Friday.

It will hear submissions from interested parties including three from Catholic church bodies – the Council for Education of the Irish Episcopal Conference, the Catholic Primary School Management Association and the Association of Trustees of Catholic Schools.

In a submission to the forum, the Catholic bishops have criticised as “very unhelpful” a suggestion by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn that 50 per cent of primary schools under their control could be transferred to other patrons.

This suggested to those involved with Catholic schools that “they will be forced into change against their will”, the bishops said.

For his part, Dr Martin has noted that 90 per cent of Dublin primary schools were under his patronage, while the percentage population who actively wanted a Catholic education could be as low as 50 per cent.

At the commissioning of nine parish pastoral workers in Knocklyon, Dublin, yesterday, Dr Martin said: “For the church the discussion about schools today is not about the number of schools that may change patronage, but about the quality of the faith life of the Catholic school.”

Also taking part in this week’s forum will be representatives of the National Parents Council, the Church of Ireland, the Islamic Foundation of Ireland, Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lán-Ghaeilge, the Gaelscoileanna, Educate Together, the INTO, the Irish Vocational Education Association, the National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education, the Irish Primary Principals’ Network and the Department of Education.

They will be questioned by a panel chaired by Prof John Coolahan.

Irish Times – Patsy McGarry
20 Meitheamh 2011