Bishop Leo O'Reilly expresses concern about secular schools planWednesday, July 18th, 2012
The Bishop of Kilmore, Dr Leo O'Reilly, has warned Education Minister Ruairi Quinn not to rush ahead with plans to put primary schools currently managed by the Church under secular control.
Speaking at the weekend Bishop O'Reilly, a former chairman of the Bishop's Council on Educational Matters, that the plan to hand over 50 primary schools posed the question of whether diversity and choice is being offered for all, except those practising as Catholics.
“It's a position that essentially suggests freedom of religion is freedom from religion. That's a crucial distinction and worrying in itself. They apparently want no prayers in schools and that anyone without faith, to not be impinged upon, in any way, by any religious content, as if it were some kind of an infection that could be damaging to their health.”
Bishop O'Reilly said that he hopes Mr Quinn does not get blindsided into implementation of the proposals.
“If he does, there could be trouble, as to try and bulldoze or ram it through would be incredibly unwise.”
The Department of Education has now invited expressions of interest from bodies wishing to become patrons in the schools. Once the list of interested parties is finalised , the department will carry out surveys to determine if there is sufficient demand for a change of patronage to one or more local schools and, if so, the preference of parents locally for a new patron.
The most likely interest in the new patronage is expected to come from multidenominational body Educate Together, but local Vocational Education Committees (VEC's) are also expected to offer their multidenominational model of community national school.
It is also expected that there may be expressions of interest from An Foras Patrúnacta who are already patrons to numerous all-Irish schools with different ethos systems.
Some of the larger areas selected by the Department of Education for inclusion in the first divesting exercises include twelve in the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, four in Waterford and Lismore and three each in the dioceses of Cork and Ross, and Cloyne.
The first surveys are expected to be conducted in October.
by Sean Ryan