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Protestant Schools Dispute Continues

October 21, 2009 7 comments

The debate about the funding of Protestant schools in the Republic trundles on. I blogged about it here just over a week ago. Yesterday, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. John Neill(pictured above) in his Presidential address to the Dublin and Glendalough Diocesan Synod, argued that the Republic’s Protestant schools could be entirely wiped out by cuts in their funding. In a new twist to the story, Dr. Neill claimed that the new decision to end the 40 year arrangement whereby ancilliary funding was provided to Protestant fee-paying schools on the same basis as schools which were members of the free education scheme was not driven by financial concerns. Rather, “[i]t was driven by what amounts to a very determined and doctrinaire effort within the Department of Education to strike at a sector which some officials totally failed to understand.” Accusing Minister O’Keeffe of  “attempt[ing]…  to place all Protestants into a category of privilege – suggesting that they have chosen private education – is manifestly unjust.” In the Archbishop’s experience many Protestant parents were “very poor, and I mean very poor indeed, who sacrifice much in order to send their children to a school of their own tradition.” These people would be the worst affected by the funding cutbacks since schools hoping to survive, in the Archbishop’s view, “ will only do so by charging excessive fees, thereby excluding the very community they were founded to serve.” Fee-paying Protestant schools have also faced an increase in the pupil teacher ratio to 20 pupils to one teacher, compared to 19 to one in other secondary schools.

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