First joint patronage primary school to open in the Irish Republic

The first primary school in the Irish Republic to be established under the joint patronage of the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland will open in September.

Gaelscoil an tSlí Dála in Ballaghmore, Borris in Ossory, Co Laois, will operate along inter-denominational lines, with pupils receiving some shared religious education and separate instruction in the sacraments.

Bishop Michael Mayes, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, and Bishop Willie Walsh, Roman Catholic Bishop of Killaloe say they hope the move will ensure children in the area are now able to receive a Christian primary school education through Irish.

  • maca

    Personally i’d prefer if there was no church involvement, but it’s good news anyway. Good that it’s a Gaeilscoil too.

  • Fraggle

    Maca, I was about to say the same thing about the church involvement myself.

  • serik

    How far is the Republic behind NI in terms of integrated provision?

  • Eoin Bairéad

    There may be more to this than meets the eye. The Gaelscoileanna HAS set up a patronage body for its non- or multi- denominational schools. Three years ago this body approved the sacking of a teacher from such a school because he refused to segregate catholic & non catholic children in religous education (no, I’m not making this up).

    The teachers’ union, the INTO, may actually feel that the rights in conscience of its members are actually better protected when bishops are patrons.

    Removed multiple postings – mod

  • George

    Eoin,
    I remember this incident now you bring it up. Interesting thought as to why this is happening now.

    For those who aren’t familiar with it, the policy proposed by the teacher in Meath was that all matters common to both religions would be taught during normal school hours to all pupils, but that matters accepted by only one religious denomination would be taught outside of school hours.

    However when this policy was submitted to the
    patron body for their approval, they insisted that such an approach was not acceptable and that all religion should be taught during school hours.

    Serik,
    “How far is the Republic behind NI in terms of integrated provision?”

    What do you mean by “behind NI” which implies that both jurisdictions have the same education targets? They don’t.

    There isn’t the same lobby for integrated education south of the border and I am not even aware of any targets for integrated schools.

    In the Republic it’s simply not an issue with any religion. Private fee-paying education is the buzz phrase down here and nobody gives a hoot which foot you kick with as long as you can stump up the cash.

  • fair_deal

    The state should provide a single secular system to everybody.

  • beano; EverythingUlster.com

    Couldn’t agree more. keep religion in the churches.

  • George

    fair_deal,
    I don’t know the story north of the border but there are 34 integrated primary schools in the Republic compared to 10 in 1991.

    As great as secular education is in theory, I don’t see any evidence of it leading to tolerance of other religions or cultures. In fact, I see the opposite, namely, it being used as vehicle for the ruling elites to rally against religious, national and cultural traditions they see as outmoded, conservative, inferior or whatever.

    I think it’s good that Ireland was the first country in Europe to have a state-funded Muslim school and that all Protestant schools get 100% government grants, even the elite ones because of their minority status.

    Why change a system that appears to be working for everyone, minority religions in particular, and instead demand everyone follow a secular path?

    I would argue that the current method certainly hasn’t harmed community relations in the Irish Republic while looking at places with secular eduation like France, there appears to be much more strain.

    More of this kind of secularism in Ireland will not lead to greater social liberty and greater social diversity.

    In fact, it would have the opposite effect. It would merely lead to intolerance.

  • fair_deal

    George

    “As great as secular education is in theory, I don’t see any evidence of it leading to tolerance of other religions or cultures. In fact, I see the opposite, namely, it being used as vehicle for the ruling elites to rally against religious, national and cultural traditions they see as outmoded, conservative, inferior or whatever.”

    The abuse by an elite can happen in any system, the elite of a church can abuse the system too (for example the historical problems of abuse that have came to light in the past decades or so).

    The difficulties in France is more about french chauvinism to other cultures and the banning religious symbols or clothes was plain daft.

    Your argument is a reasonable one especially for very small minorities. However, secular to me does not mean ‘identity free’ more not mono-identity – human rights standards apply for the protection of national minorities and rights of the child require communication of identity.

    Also a similar system in two different societies can produce two different results e.g. Ro I and NI.

  • George

    Fair_Deal,
    I don’t think think bowing to the secular lobby on this issue is in the interest of the religious minorities of this country (Irish Republic).

    True, 20 years ago the threat of what you call mono-identity was stronger due to the pervading influence of an unreconstructed Catholic Church, when it exerted undue influence over the ruling elite, but in the Ireland of today it would be a seriously retrograde step to argue for the end of the current system.

    Is there a country in the world where a blindly secular education system hasn’t led to mono-identity (every American child having to swear allegiance for example) or a diminuition of minority rights?

    Irish Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc. taxpayers have the right for their children to be educated according to their faith and their loyalty to the state is strengthened if the state provides this service.

    Is the NI system and the funding methods thereof the same as the Republic?

    Does the British government pay for the wages of teachers at private schools for example?

  • Occasional Commentator

    In hindsight, I’m not very impressed with the religious education I got in school in the ROI. It was very simplistic and repetitive. It didn’t convince me about religion and didn’t stop me becoming an atheist.

    I’ve learned a lot more about religion since I started reading history books, including a history of the RC Church, over the last few years. I can’t help but wonder if I would still be a Catholic today, or some sort of Christian (maybe Orthodox), if the education was better suited to people like me who question everything.

    Also, in many discussions with religious people, it’s amazing just how wrong they can be about the religion they claim to follow. Perhaps this ignorance suits the religions, because most people would quit their faith if they were aware of what they were actually supposed to believe! So maybe the bad education is a deliberate choice by the religious authorities?

    George said:

    Irish Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc. taxpayers have the right for their children to be educated according to their faith

    No they don’t. No parent has any right to pass the buck for religious education to the state. There is much that could and should be taught about religion that would be suited to the History class, but when it comes to actually preaching a faith, the state is perfectly entitled not to bother. If the state is going to fund religious indoctrination it should be fair to all religions and other philosophies.

    The most useful education would probably be teaching people about other religions, especially the misconceptions that surely abound in Northern Ireland.

    We need to draw a line between religious indoctrination (“we’re telling you to believe this”), and religious education (“this particular religion believes such and such”).

  • George

    OC,
    it is not passing the buck, it is affording people, who make up and pay for the state, the right to have their children educated according to their wishes.

    Sending your child to St. Andrews, for example, does not constitute indoctrination in my book.

    Your view that children in religious schools are indoctrinated is further evidence for me of how people use secularism merely as vehicle for the to rally against religious, national and cultural traditions.

    Show me some evidence of a country where secular education works better for religious minorities than the Irish method.

  • Occasional Commentator

    I wasn’t meaning to use ‘indoctrination’ in a pejorative way. Can somebody suggest a better word for telling children what they are to believe? ‘Education’ isn’t the right word. For example, I was never told that “Catholics believe the Host is the body of Christ”. I was told “The Host is the body of Christ”. What’s a good word that describes the latter?

  • George

    The term religious instruction would be more appropriate OC.

    This is not a case of the state telling children what they should believe, it is a case of the state providing for the needs of all its citizens, for example creating a state-funded Muslim school for our new compatriots.

    This is more respectful to other cultures and the way forward in my view.

    I’m not religious myself but I am well aware of the central importance it holds in the lives of many Irish people.

    As long as these schools follow the education curriculum and the parents and children are happy, where is the problem?

    It seems to me that the arguments for educational secularism in today’s Ireland are simply for the sake of it because nobody seems to be able to point to how it will improve things for Irish society or for Irish children.

  • Baluba

    This can only be good news I think.

    Although I would instinctually side with the secular side of the discussion too, I have to say that I found my schooling in the Catholic system a positive experience. In the latter years our school put together their own religious program for sixth and seventh years which covered all faiths, philosophy and promoted debate. The debates were often firey and I think back now and think that the school was bold in bringing in such a class.

    I liked the community and moral ethos of the school too.

    What I didn’t like was saying prayers at the beginning of lessons, which the older teachers were very much into.

    In German schools, secularism seems to be very successful and where the Bavarians have tried to re-catholicize many schools, it seems to have harmed the previous relative harmony. Suggesting that Muslim girls may not wear headscarves is also a nonsense.

    No matter how much of a dedicated heathen I am, (my gods are false ones of music and food, not necessarily in that order), I can surely not tolerate discrimination on religious grounds.

    I don’t think necessarily, that integrated schools are the wonder cure of all our ills (as was demonstarted by young Brannagh a few years ago), but there is certainly nothing too oppose in them.

    The reason I welcome this is mostly because it is an Irish speaking school and increased Protestant ownership of the language is fantastic. However, to welcome this as a great religious breakthrough would be a bit daft as religion poses zero problem in the 26 anyway.

    For those who don’t know/realise/find it hard to believe, most of the Gaelscoileanna in the North are non-denominational. One school on the Falls has had Muslim, Adventist, Mormon and Hindu children come through it already.

  • Occasional Commentator

    I don’t mind either way whether the state funds religious instruction in faith schools. But if the state does fund religious education it should apply to all/most religions, I think most of us agree on that.

    George said:

    Your view that children in religious schools are indoctrinated is further evidence for me of how people use secularism merely as vehicle for the to rally against religious, national and cultural traditions.

    I shouldn’t have used the word indoctrination and this mistake might have caused confusion. Anyway, fans of secularism are not necessarily pushing that sort of agenda. Secularism is usually based on the quite reasonable opinion that church and state should be separate. They are NOT necessarily calling for atheism to be taught as truth in school. A secular education does not contradict any religious instruction received from parents.

    There are probably more atheists in Ireland than there are followers of most(all?) religions other than Catholicism in Ireland. Should the state fund schools that ‘instruct’ children in atheism? Instructing children in atheism is quite different from secularism (which ignores religion).

  • serik

    George

    “Private fee-paying education is the buzz phrase down here and nobody gives a hoot which foot you kick with as long as you can stump up the cash. “

    But in NI you don’t have to pay to go to an integrated school. The ROI sounds a bit behind NI in that sense.

  • George

    Serik,
    you don’t have to pay to go to an integrated school in the Republic either, what I meant was that your average punter’s priority is for his/her child to be educated in a fee-paying school with a record of good exam results, regardless of religious makeup, rather than looking for a state-run integrated one.

    For example, my non-Catholic nephews go to a Protestant primary school but are all enrolled to attend a fee-paying Catholic secondary school when old. Nothing to do with religion, just education standards.

    Also, the A-Level results in Northern Ireland this year show that schools under Catholic management did better than those which are not with 81.7% of pupils at Catholic grammar schools achieving two or more A-levels, as did 22.3% of pupils at Catholic-managed secondary schools.

    The corresponding figures for non-Catholic schools were 79.4% and 14.4%.

    Surely, this is evidence, in Northern Ireland at any rate, that religious schools are delivering better results for the state than non-religious ones so places with more integrated schools are the ones behind.

    Why do you think the Republic is behind Northern Ireland by not having as strong a lobby for integrated schools. How many such schools are there in NI?