Garret FitzGerald argues that the Republic should return to the status quo from before the state ‘gifted’ a large chunk of the school estate to the Catholic Church:
This unique educational structure appears to have remained unchanged under British rule and thereafter until 1971, when over 90 per cent of our primary schools were made integrally Catholic – on the grounds that “the separation of religious and secular instruction into differentiated subject compartments served only to throw the whole educational function out of focus”.
I believe that the 1971 decision was a mistake. With some practical adjustments, including a diversification of the patronage system, the pre-1971 system might have continued to be defensible as in principle providing an education open to all.
But once over 90 per cent of our schools became integrally Roman Catholic, a demand for non-religious schools was bound to grow rapidly, and, given the requirements of Article 42 of our Constitution protecting parents’ rights in this area, the State cannot resist such a demand.