Will Cardinal “put aside his political views and [move] on”?

Budgetary concerns to one side for now, last week the Belfast Telegraph reported that when, at the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Education Committee meeting, the UUP’s Basil McCrea expressed concerns about the proposed Education and Skills Authority

He said the role of the board of governors would be undermined by the ESA. “We are implacably opposed to a trojan horse,” he said. “This is not about education, this is about more ministerial control over schools.”

Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd’s responded by accusing the UUP MLA of political bias

John O’Dowd (Sinn Fein, Upper Bann) challenged Mr McCrea’s claims and said he was letting his judgement be clouded by his political opposition to the minister. “It is disappointing that he hasn’t taken the opportunity to look at the review of public administration in the broader sense and put aside his political views and moved on,” he said.

We’ll have to wait until next week to see if O’Dowd uses the same line against Cardinal Sean Brady.. From the BBC report

The future of Catholic education in Northern Ireland is under “significant threat” from planned reforms, Cardinal Sean Brady has claimed. He said plans to centralise control of education could “undermine the ethos” of Catholic schools.

Also from the BBC report

The cardinal, who is the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, appealed to people to lobby politicians to “safeguard the right of parents to have their children educated in Catholic schools”.

He asked politicians to “respect the hard-won right of Catholic parents to have fair and appropriate support from the state for Catholic schools”.

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  • Greenflag

    ‘He said plans to centralise control of education could “undermine the ethos” of Catholic schools.’

    Could undermine ?

    Any ‘undermining ‘ of the Catholic ethos in schools or in society generally on this island has been largely of it’s own (RC Church) making -through the corruption and hypocrisy of much of it’s hierarchy and bureaucracy.

    Non denominational state education should be the norm in Northern Ireland . Those Churches Catholic or Protestant who wish to provide ‘ethos’ i.e sectarian ‘education’ for their followers should be allowed to do so. They should also have to pay the full cost of such ‘sectarian’ education with zero assistance from the State . If you believe in the ethos then it follows you ought to believe in paying for it ?

    The ‘taxpayer’ should not have to pay for the ‘marketing ‘ activities of the religious ‘branding’ networks !

  • TAFKABO

    The problem is Greenflag that the taxpayer wants this, unless I’m mistaken and Catholics don’t pay tax?
    Nothing annoys me more about Northern Ireland day to day life than the self enforcd apardheid in the education system but as libertarian I have to accept people’s right to have their children educated in a manner of their choosing.

  • If the government stops funding Catholic schools on that account then surely Catholic parents should get a tax remit so as to ensure that they aren’t forced to pay for schools with a secular ethos.

  • Greenflag

    Tafkabo,

    ‘The problem is Greenflag that the taxpayer wants this’

    They might have second thoughts if they had to pay directly for the ‘service’ d see exactly how much it costs . In Germany taxpayers can elect to have a standard deduction from their wages or salaries which goes directly to the Church usually Catholic or Lutheran of their choice .The Churches then dispose of this money as they see fit . People are also free to opt out of this arrangement. Northern Ireland could have a similar option for Catholics and Protestants re education . Each Church could set a figure which it needs to support it’s schools and members would authorise the State to deduct the requisite amount from taxpayers who would pay for their faith in a tangible and organised manner instead of via the buckets of ‘silent collections and white envelopes or basket offerings and the whole myriad of financial tools which the churches use to grab their share of the Lord’s loot .

  • Greenflag

    Catholic observer,

    ‘If the government stops funding Catholic schools on that account then surely Catholic parents should get a tax remit so as to ensure that they aren’t forced to pay for schools with a secular ethos. ,

    Correct and the same for Protestants. Another way around the problem is to have ‘religion’ as an ‘optional ‘ extra at all State funded schools which would be supported by direct taxation of the ‘believers ‘ as suggested above . Those choosing not to have ‘religious’ instruction of any denomination would not be directly ‘taxed’ and thus the inbuilt current financial discrimination against people with no ‘religion’ would cease .

  • Driftwood

    It is not the job of the state to provide for any religious ethos. Education is a separate issue and there is a common curriculum. Should the state provide Buddhist, Hindu, schools etc. of course not.
    Catholic Observer- presumably you are alarmed that there are no Catholic Universities, only ‘secular’ ones.
    There are some Independent christian schools and they (quite rightly) get no state funding whatsoever.

  • The _Analyst

    It baffles me why the catholic Hierarcy are only now coming out with their reservations concerning the changes in education administration. These have been flagged for some considerable time with the demise of the CCMS (the body charged with the day to day administration of the non grammar catholic post primary sector and the entire primary sector)announced quite some time ago. Their dithering and difficulties in finding a consensus amongst their own body with regard to the way forward in an 11+ era does not inspire confidence that they have a coherent policy or outlook on the way forward that reflects the central tenets of the christianity they are charged with spreading. Their inability to control the grammar school sector reflects badly on them and weakens their argument. Are they about principles or are they about control?

  • MoreMediaNonsense

    Interesting to see this. I wrote an article on this issue on Harry’s Place a few days ago (and have just linked back to here) :

    http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/03/11/segregated-education-not-an-option/#comment-317030

  • TAFKABO

    It is not the job of the state to provide for any religious ethos.

    Surely this is only the case in a declared secular society ?

    Neither the UK nor the Irish republic are secular societies in the true sense of the word.

  • Driftwood

    TAFKABO
    Both the UK and RoI are rapidly becoming secular with the exception of Islamification of some areas of GB. Having a segregated education system does no-one any favours. No-one is arguing that peoples beliefs cannot be accomodated similar to the way the integrated sector operates. Churches are losing their influence and schools are their last bastion of such influence. Hence the fear factor for certain religious people.
    As an aside the’creationist’lobby are also fearful for the same reason.

  • TAFKABO

    I hope you’re right Driftwood but I fear that the next fifty years will see a lurch back to religion for a lot of Europeans as a reaction against militant Islam.

  • Stewart

    There’s undoubtedly positioning going on within the UUP for the inevitable leadership contest after the June 4th elections, once Reg’s clumsy Tory gambit has gone down in flames.

    Basil’s clearly raising his profile with an eye to the leadership.

  • Greenflag

    Driftwood,

    ‘Hence the fear factor for certain religious people.
    As an aside the’creationist’lobby are also fearful for the same reason. ‘

    Birds of a feather flocking together as to be expected ..

    tafkabo,

    ‘I fear that the next fifty years will see a lurch back to religion for a lot of Europeans as a reaction against militant Islam.’

    There is also another effect i.e a lurch forward for ‘militant ‘ atheism ‘ as the latter will be even more opposed to ‘irrational’ and atavistic Islamism than to the remmant christian churches in the west which when all is said and done have mostly cut their cords with the medieval mindset in most cases .

  • veritas

    “catholic ethos”…the sooner the catholic church losses control of education the better for this whole society….

    We need total integration of education provision…

  • You looking at me?

    “We”???
    Speak for yourself.

  • Dec

    We need total integration of education provision…

    Verita

    Who’s ‘we’?

  • Gregory

    “We need total integration of education provision”

    Where would C. Ruane crib that from?

    A state programme of disbelief, will ultimately lose against one of belief.

    Gregory

  • Alex S

    Apart from the Churches whose interests are served by having two seperate schools, take Poyntzpass as an example, two small primary schools, the RC one has to close through lack of numbers, instead of linking up with the state school 100 yards away they join up with the RC school in Tandgagee, madness!

  • veritas

    total separation of church and state….

    Total integration of Education.

    The Catholic Church are only concerned with their position of power, privilege and money…

    Yeah and keeping them damned Prods down…

  • George

    Greenflag,
    In Germany taxpayers can elect to have a standard deduction from their wages or salaries which goes directly to the Church usually Catholic or Lutheran of their choice .The Churches then dispose of this money as they see fit . People are also free to opt out of this arrangement.

    Indeed people are free to opt out of this arrangement, but you have neglected one very important piece of information: when they do this, they then simply pay a standard deduction into the central exchequer. Everyone still pays the tax.

    Ireland, north and south, could introduce this type of system but it won’t change anything.

    Virtually everyone would still pay the Catholic or Protestant rate because it would be pretty much the same as the standard non-Christian rate.

    Also, if they didn’t they would not be entitled to burial in a Christian graveyard (the case in Germany) or get married in a Christian Church.

    As as result, virtually everyone in “Godless” Germany pays Kirchensteuer.

    Also, if you have been baptised and don’t want to pay it, you have to get an official excommunication document from your Church.

    Those Germans love procedure.

    If your average German has made the decision that they’ll stick with paying the Church tax, you can bet your bottom euro so will the Irish.

  • ArchiePurple

    STEWART:

    Have a titter of wit – Making a valid argument against the proposed Education and Skills Authority can in no way, that I see, be construed as positioning to take over the leadership of the Unionist Party.

    Absolute nonsense from you and your assertion that the new alliance with the Conservatives to fight the Westminster and European elections will go down in flames. I suggest that view is more to do with you being a DUPe or other misguided person, with little real knowledge of what the arrangement between the two parties is.

  • Basil for president

    I also agree with Stewart and think Basil would be a great leader, maybe a ‘chosen one’ for the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists New Force.

  • Greenflag

    George ,

    ‘when they do this, they then simply pay a standard deduction into the central exchequer. Everyone still pays the tax.’

    Not the case . If you officially delist from the Church i.e go and get the paperwork done then the local Finanzamt ensures that you are no longer deducted the Church tax . This tax is a tax on tax ie it’s a percentage of your income tax circa 5% iirc . The more you earn the more income tax you pay and thus the more ‘church’ tax you pay .
    The Churches in order to protect their revenue stream don’t make it easy for people to de enlist as this tax is the major source of their income .

    The ‘good’ side of this arrangement is that it makes the German clergy (Protestant and Catholic ) fat and happy . It doesn’t matter whether there is 10 or 1000 people in their churches they still get their share of the dosh . This is probably the main financial reason as opposed to cultural ones why you don’t see the kind of ‘evangelistic for profit Churches of the ‘God wants you to be rich’ variety in Germany unlike say in the USA or to a lesser extent in Northern Ireland /UK .

    Most Germans go along with it because it represents just a small percentage of their total income maybe 1 to 2 % for most people . Retirees don’t pay neither do the unemployed iirc . They’ll probably get around to doing the same for German muslims eventually . The legislation behind this Church tax was developed during ‘nazi times ‘ and was part of the ‘price’ that the RC Church demanded for their non opposition to Hitler’s regime. Naturally the Lutheran’s took the path of easy money too .

    I would not assume that the Irish either North or South would necessarily follow the German practice . Our ‘democratic’ tradition is slightly longer and there has been a history of dissension in Ireland that is still part of the political and national memory. Most Germans apart from a minority have long since given up on ‘religion’ and on the semantic differences between the main religions . The ‘tax’ probably helps to keep the churche’s less extreme than otherwise might be the case ?

  • Reader

    Driftwood: There are some Independent christian schools and they (quite rightly) get no state funding whatsoever.
    Mostly FreeP, though there are others too. I think the ostensible reason they don’t get state funding is that they don’t accept the Common/Revised/(whatever) Curriculum, unlike the maintained sector. There has to be some stated justification for discriminating between the sectors.
    And I think the Free Ps *would* be difficult to accommodate!

  • Brian Walker

    It would be quite nice amid all this stuff about churches and politics to spare a thought for actual education. My impression of CCMS is that it has done far more hard thinking about the curriculum than most politicians and is already moving quietly into the new era.

    Due to demography, the new era of education in one in which a measure of voluntary creeping integration is likely to continue. Integration can only be voluntary and gradual and will never be complete in my view. Incentives to advance it must be offered only an agreed educational grounds and not as a policy of socio-political engineering. (Who this side of the last trump is going to force integration anyway?)

    Based on applying Bain on school planning and Costello on the curriculum, the new era presents the new Board a marvellous opportunity to lay out a range of options for the future pattern of schools and the curriculum for public inspection. The Board should offer more than one version of which schools would survive to offer x subjects. In such a small place as NI, a mapping exercise of options is entirely feasible. Then let everybody argue over it, on the basis of tangible plans rather than ideology and rhetoric.

    Some greater measure of integration seems inevitable further up the age range, in order to be able to offer the full range of subjects. Ethos can be protected along Mater hospital lines. But a substantial degree of surplus capacity would still be preserved, to respect parents’ wish for faith schools.

    The benefits of a comprehensive options exercise could be huge. Parents would then be in a better position to exercise choice and the way would be open to end the the deadlock over academic selection.

  • Driftwood

    My impression of CCMS is that it has done far more hard thinking about the curriculum

    ?? CCEA is responsible for the NI Curriculum.

    Why should ‘faith’ (belief without evidence) have any part of the state education system Brian? It’s a family or individual matter, and not something atheist or agnostic taxpayers should indulge. In fact when it comes to the teaching of evolution it can be positively harmful.
    NI has a glut of schools teaching a huge variety of subjects, many of the subjects practically useless.
    There is an underutilised FE sector as well as an abundance of choice at post primary. Someone needs to ask hard questions as to how much indulgence of the bishops we can afford.

  • TAFKABO

    I first read ‘demography’ in Brian’s post as ‘demonography’.

  • Uriop

    A problem with all these Dawkinsite proposals is that they treat the educational division here as religious. Largely it is not. Not in the Dawkins sense of religious anyway. For a start most “protestant” schools are nothing of the kind, they’re state schools. Plonk them in England with the same curriculum, rules on enrolment etc. and they’d be considered a bog standard state comprehensive (or whatever). They’re Protestant de facto, not de jure. They’re only protestant in the same sense that certain CofE schools in England are bizarrely Muslim
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article5576412.ece
    not in the Richard Dawkins sense.

    You can attend one without any comment on whether Martin Luther was right or wrong. Just a generic Christian assembly (often as in England even this is dispensed with) and maybe the odd nativity play. But that’s Christian, not Protestant. Same thing happens in a state comprehensive in England.

    On the other hand, many who chose to send their children to de jure Catholic schools, which actually are Catholic (capital C), do not do so primarily because they want them to believe that Peter being the rock meant that the Pope is the head of the one true church and that using condoms is a sin, but rather so that they’ll learn Irish, play Gaelic games and be inculcated in a milieu in which the island of Ireland is uncontroversially considered a nation. That, and it’s opposite, has much more to do with stoking conflict here than the whole religion thing that Dawkins would bang on about.

  • Essentialist

    Brian,

    Once again you provide an almost word for word exemplar of the DENI bureaucrats agenda. You could drive a 4X4 through the proposals.
    Why don’t you start with the demographic decline argument and come back to Sluggerites on how the DENI have managed to avoid reference to the constant rise in the birthrate since 2001.
    See the
    http:// paceni.wordpress.com
    reference to Barry Gardiner’s prophesy.
    Your interventions on behalf of the educationalists would be more credible if you declared your interest. Is your ear being bent by Roy Lilley or Sir Ken Bloomfield or George Bain?
    Notice how Steve Costello virtually disappeared after producing his report.
    Meanwhile parents are being subject to all sorts of pressures. (Poots in Lisburn for example)

  • Greenflag

    Uriop,

    ‘but rather so that they’ll learn Irish, play Gaelic games and be inculcated in a milieu in which the island of Ireland is uncontroversially considered a nation. ‘

    I agree . Get the minds early and you have the vast majority of them for life or at least you used . Nowadays more people have a tendency to come to their own ‘workable ‘ solutions for dealing with ‘matters of faith ‘ . These can range all the way from ‘a la carte Catholicism’ to a Protestant denominational pick off the Religious Supermarket of Choice based on the ‘personality ‘ of the preacher and his /her tv appeal ;)?

    The actual ‘interest’ in Irish may be minimal and interest in Gaelic games may be watered down by interest in soccer and or rugby but you have probably hit the proverbial nail on the head. The same goes for the State system . But if the State schools did teach Irish (optional ) and promoted Gaelic games as well as soccer and rugby then what would be the objection to non religiously denominated schools for most people ? Students could still attend ‘separate ‘ religious instruction using the same facilities on different days ?

    For the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland it should not make a major difference . For a minority of strongly ‘religious’ catholic , free presbyterian and others they can still have ‘private ‘ schools for which they can pay private fees with monies raised from their private members .

    Conflict does not need to be stoked in Northern Ireland . NI needs more cold water poured on the remaining embers .

  • Brian Walker

    Essentialist, You play the old game of scouting around for a conspiracy where none exists. I’m not in touch with any of the above and think for myself. Is it really too demanding for you to address the actual subject? There are different demographic bubbles but it seems clear there are surplus places as Driftwood says. However it isn’t a question of “should.” Faith is widely respected but there is far more flexibility now in public attitudes to the role of the churches. Go with the grain of that I suggest, rather than say in the cell of secular fundamentalism.

  • Driftwood

    Thought this article should appear here:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/northern-ireland-a-land-still-troubled-by-its-past-1644904.html

    It adresses other points but the education segregation is paramount.

  • Essentialist

    @ Brian Walker

    It is clear that you are willing to pontificate on this subject on the basis of “thinking for yourself”

    Unless you admit to ignoring objective independent evidence (a trait not uncommon to educationalists in Northern Ireland)then the demographic bubble you cite as a throwaway remark is actually a trend line that is unidirectional, upward and significant. Inconvenient for the DENI, Ms Ruane and advisers who failed to admit the fact but nonetheless true.

    Playing the man is a very common trait when the “visionaries” bump into inconvenient obstacles so please show me where the births have become a “conspiracy”.

    Must try harder Brian.