The Papal broadside on these islands continues, deftly pegged to successive five-yearly ad limina visits to Rome by the national bishops’ conferences. For the Irish it was child abuse scandal and an episcopal revolution. For the English it was about defeating a modest anti discrimination law. Now for the Scots, the Pope puts up a stout defence of Catholic education in overcoming sectarianism. To which the grand old man of Scottish journalism Magnus Linklater replies: Up to a point, Your Holiness. Magnus expresses the problem perfectly. How can you deny choice to Catholics when you desire integration only by consent? There might yet be a way round the dilemma. In Ireland the ground continues to s shift. Labour education spokesman Ruari Quinn put it with exquisite courtesy in a memorable article last week.
Some Catholic schools in Dublin South East require a baptismal certificate for the child and a utility bill in the name of the parents for a dwelling within the parish. Some 90 per cent of the primary schools in Dublin South East have waiting lists. Newborn infants have their names put on a waiting list for schools by parents aware of the local situation. Young new parents or people who grew up in other parts of the country are astounded when they cannot get their children into their local school. For some, the request for a baptismal certificate is an affront, if not a surprise
The trend seems to be, where the Catholic church is in a massive majority, its institutional control is weakening. Where it is in a sizeable minority, its control is as strong as ever. Choice in Scotland means Catholic; choice in the Republic means pluralism.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London