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Hickey on Religious Patronage of Irish Primary Schools and Republicanism

January 6, 2010 6 comments

This guest post is contributed by Tom Hickey, a PhD candidate at the Law school, NUI Galway, under the supervision of  Prof. Gerry Quinn.  He attended Princeton University on a Visiting Student Research Collaborative Scheme in 2009, under the supervision of Prof. Philip Pettit, at the University Center for Human Values.

The current management of schools is working exceptionally well. The patron is in place in terms of ethos but has nothing to do with the overall management of schools. That is the responsibility of the board of management.”

Minister for Education, Batt O‘Keeffe T.D., Dáil Éireann, December 2009.

The recently published Ryan and Murphy reports have suddenly brought the issue of the extent of religious patronage in the Irish primary school system into very sharp focus. Most of us involved in public discourse in Ireland are by now familiar with a statistic we may not have been familiar with six months ago: 92% of our primary schools are run by Catholic institutions. And despite the Minister’s assertion in the Dáil in early December, there seems a growing consensus that this is neither appropriate nor sustainable. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has even suggested that the Church divest itself of control of at least some of the schools, and has described the current level of control a “near monopoly,” “untenable,” and a “historical hangover.” Indeed, the Archbishop went further and suggested that the present situation is “in many ways detrimental to the possibility of maintaining a true Catholic identity in Catholic schools,” a thought that should interest the many families across the state who still want this kind of education for their children.

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