…a long-standing focus for Catholic discontent.

There is an element of Groundhog Day in the sudden outburst of debate on education and integration/segregation. Despite Brian’s claim that Catholic schools were fully funded in the 1970s (see point 10 in his list), that didn’t occur until November 1992 when it was announced that:

In a historical deal agreed between the Catholic bishops and the Department [of Education], Catholic schools will now be entitled to 100 percent financial support for new buildings. Hitherto they had to meet 15 per cent of such capital costs.

The move redresses what has been a long-standing focus for Catholic discontent. State-controlled, but de-facto Protestant schools and religiously integrated schools already receive full funding. (taken from a piece by Carmel McQuaid in The Irish Times, 6 Nov, 1992).

Previous to that (in November 1989), Brian Mawhinney (as NI Education Minister under direct rule) ended a year and half consultation process and moved on mainstreaming integrated schools in tandem with the state sector. At the time this was also heralded as the end of Catholic education as it was believed that full funding would only be awarded if they only taught the curriculum offered by the states religious schools. In the 20 or so years since, I don’t think that has happened.

As Mark has pointed out, there is undue focus on Catholic schools as ‘religious’ within the current debate, implying that state sector and integrated schools somehow are secular.

The idea that forcing the integration of education in a society where a large portion live in segregated communities is inane. It is equally obtuse to try and shy away from the fact that the identity of most of the Catholic schools is ‘Irish’, not ‘British’. Adherence to religions has tended to act as a proxy for demonstrating people’s political and cultural allegiances in Ireland since the late sixteenth century. The same can be said about current attitudes to Gaelic games, the Irish language and other areas of life which have become identified with one community. The debate here is really about promoting a pretence of cultural, political and social homogenisation, although, even then, for many that is acceptable – as long as the Irish bits don’t survive the integration process.

[For the record – I attended two Catholic schools – Holy Family Primary and St Malachy’s College].