Catholic Bishops and Irish Primary Schools

Church control of Irish education — the reality

Quite a bit of inaccurate information was posted in response to Bock’s original post on this subject. One commenter in particular – Joyce – posted a series of inaccurate statements and this is my response.

The “Rules” I quote are taken from “The Rules for National Schools” – which are (exactly as it says on the tin) the rules for national schools!

Non-Catholics during Religion class.

Parents who think it’s ok for their non-Catholic children to attend a Catholic school, because they won’t be doing religion there, should think again. Despite the fact that provision must be made for such pupils, this does not happen in reality.

Rule 69. (2) (a) states: “No pupil shall receive, or be present at any religious instruction of which his parents or guardian disapprove”.

Rule 69. (2) (b) states: “The periods of formal religious instruction shall be fixed so as to facilitate the withdrawal of pupils to whom paragraph (a) of this section applies”.

Despite these Rules, what actually happens is that the non-Catholic has to sit in the class, during religion class. They are always present, listening, absorbing. Also, Bishops in certain Dioceses insist that teachers must teach religion at 12 noon – slap bang in the middle of the day – not at all what was meant in Rule 69 (2) (b). Priests often call in to the school at noon, to check that teachers are teaching religion – not all schools, but a great many, especially if the school is within easy access of the church / Parochial House. This is a quiet, roundabout but very effective way of ensuring that all children receive Catholic, religious instruction, whether their parents realise it or not, or whether they consent or not!

Bishops don’t run Schools

Bishops most certainly do run and control the vast majority of Irish National Schools, but they do it in a very clever way.

Bishops don’t run schools on a daily basis (no, they get their priests to do that, and report back to them).

Bishops don’t build schools (but they do own them – check the deeds and you’ll see the Bishop’s name). The State builds schools in Ireland (when they bother!). Sometimes there is a “local contribution” required. Long ago, the Patron (Bishop) had to pay a percentage towards the cost. They got around that by getting the local people to pay instead (this is when priests were asking for money for schools from the pulpit).

The older schools were built by the British, or with grants from the British.

Joyce asks (copied and pasted exactly from her post) – “If some Cathoic religious group has provided the school;buildings and grounds and a good environment for the school which has increased my choice between a religious school and a state school, then i am all for it. What I don’t understand is why so many state schools cant achieve the same high standards as some of the religious ( and they can be catholic or protestant ) schools. Maybe you can answer that for me?”

Certainly, Joyce. First of all, they have not provided the school, building, grounds or environment. When a school is built, a local farmer either donates it or sells it. The State pays. The Bishop grabs it and puts his name on the deeds. The State cannot “achieve the same high standards of the religious” because erm… these are actually State schools, Joyce, but the Bishops hold the power. The “religious schools” are the State schools in Ireland, Joyce. Crazy, isn’t it!

Joyce finds it amazing that the Catholic church own 98% of all national schools. She thinks, I think, that this means that they were built and funded by the Catholic church, but there were not. The British government set up our current national school system in 1831 (yes, it is the exact same system to this day). It was set up as a non-denominational system and religion had to be taught on Saturday or Sunday. (These rules are still law, but disregarded, as Bock told you). Someone from the locality had to apply for grant aid to set up a national school, and that was normally the local PP in the 1800s, because few other people could read or write. The British owned the schools though, not the church. All went quite well, until the Irish themselves took over and gave the Catholic church complete and free rein. Next time, you go for a spin, take a look at the dates on the national schools – a scary number of our schools still in operation today (because new ones are awaited!!! ha! ha!) were built by the British.

Bishops don’t pay the school bills (they send their own bill through CPSMA, and let the State pay all the bills). The Bishops even check the “books” when they come around on their “Parish visitations” and for Confirmations. The Bishops don’t pay the school insurance bill, but they nominate two insurance companies that schools must choose from!! Schools can only choose from these two – all Catholic schools!!!

Bishops don’t pay the teachers, but they do control them. No teacher can get a job in a Catholic primary school unless the Bishop of that Diocese personally sanctions that appointment. At every teacher interview, the Bishop has one nominee (usually the priest) plus someone chosen from the Diocesan list (compiled by the Bishop!), plus the principal of the school (whose job was sanctioned by the Bishop!). Any teacher in a Catholic school who is openly not a good Catholic, or openly gay – can be legally sacked for those reasons alone, and has no legal recourse. It has not happened yet, but the Bishop has that power. All in all, the Bishop has enormous power over teachers (and this power is devolved to the local priest, who is generally the Chairperson of the local school Board of Management).

Bishops don’t educate teachers. True, they don’t pay the costs, but they control the course! They insist that every teacher must have a qualification to teach Religion, so this is part of every teacher education programme in Ireland. No teacher will be employed in a Catholic school without that qualification! Teachers have to pretend to be good Catholics to get a reference from their local PP and to get a job!

Bishops don’t set the curriculum (except the religion curriculum). They also set the religion book list, print and sell the books (Veritas). That is a very nice earner every year. The Bishops don’t care too much about the rest of the Curriculum, they are concerned about one subject only.

Bishops don’t provide the Inspectors (except for religion). Bishops send out religion inspectors (Diocesan Advisors) to every Catholic school in Ireland, every, single year. They check to see if teachers are teaching religion. They check to see if children are using their Veritas workbooks. They write a report for the Bishop, which teachers never get to see. The State inspectors must give a copy of their report to the school. The Bishops’ inspectors do not. The Bishop also charges the school a fee, part of which supports the religion inspectors.

Other things thrown out there –

The “dumbing down” of standards:

I have been teaching for decades, and I do not agree that there is a dumbing down of standards at primary level.  Look, we can’t have it every way! The rote learning, hours of homework and beatings of long ago produced reams of memorised texts and facts. The more child-friendly and child-centred education system that we now have in the Primary School is more conducive to personal learning and creative thinking. Do parents really want us to go back to the older methods? Learning absolutely still does take place to a high level, but it may not be as obvious as rolling out facts and figures. The onus is now on understanding, not rote.

The notion of inflated grades in Ireland emanated from Google and Microsoft – two American countries – the land of grade inflation? Irish grades are not inflated in Universities. I suspect that lower courses (lower than degree level) may suffer from grade inflation, but not in our top Universities. More students do achieve excellent grades now than heretofore, yes, but more students also fail and drop out of their courses.

The Tax Payer pays the teacher’s pension:

This is a lie, plain and simple. The INTO did some research on this in 2009, and teachers pensions are 100% self-financed i.e. the pension contributions that teachers make cover the pension of retired teachers 100%. Teachers pay 6.5% into their pensions plus a pension levy that has nothing to do with their pensions. It is a tax. It does not go towards their pension. Teachers have no choice, but to pay into this pension scheme. What happens to it? Does the Government invest it wisely in a pension fund? No! They use it for day-to-day expenditure! When teachers retire, after 40 years of paying into this scheme, there may not be any money there for them, so let’s cut the crap and look at reality right in the eye! Teachers pay their own pensions – for 40 years – and it mightn’t even be there in the end! Others, however, who never paid in to a pension scheme can claim a state non-contributory pension – a day-to-day expenditure funded by guess who?

The teaching unions have more power to influence primary schools than Bishops do:

I had to actually laugh at this one! The Unions have no control over schools. Yes, they can negotiate. Yes, they can call teachers out on strike – or can they? If that was the case, teachers could be on strike every day, there are so many issues! Also, teachers are a conservative lot, and they do not take kindly to strike action. There have been three strikes since the INTO was founded in the 1800s – 1946, early 1980s and 2010.

Joyce tells us as a fact that “The teaching unions have ultimate control of what catholic Bishops can and cannot do – anybody who does not understand that is incredibly naive”. Guess who is naive, Joyce? The unions bow and scrape to the Bishops, I’m afraid! The teacher unions are largely made up of serving teachers (the officers at branch and district, plus the Executive). If you are a serving teacher, you have to watch your job! The Bishop is your boss, and you do not cross him. If the teacher unions were free entities, they would not stand for one tenth of what they let pass (as Bock rightly said in relation to Eileen Flynn).

Dail Eireann controls our schools:

That should be true, but for all of the above reasons, it is not. Many of our TDs still seem to be afraid of the Bishops’ power also.

Our political representatives do have the legislative powers to change the law to reflect whatever changes they think the electorate want, yes.

Does the electorate want to get the Bishops out of our schools though?

I think they would, but they think, like Joyce, that the Bishops have no power anymore in 2010.

Totally, totally wrong.

73 thoughts on “Catholic Bishops and Irish Primary Schools

  1. Exhaustive! Thank you for this, but it’s a lot to take in. I’ll be reading this again slowly. But, is there any small chance that this situation (Catholic control of education) may be remedied soon, perhaps in light of the recent public ‘devaluation’ of religious orders as moral guardians?


  2. Well researched, clear and concise article there Mairead, thank you very much.

    I look forward to hearing the Catholic side of the argument to the above. There are few supporters of the Church on this site and it is rare to hear there views on anything.

  3. As always, Great insight, clear and accurate information.
    Thank you Mairead most sincerly for taking the time to share all of your immense knowledge on a very important topic with us.
    One of my many feelings on the subject is that ” Parents ” hugely facilitate the dominence of the Church in Primary school education, Even those who no longer ” practise ” their faith and have brought their belief system into question continue to avail of the procedures indicated by the Church as necessary to gain access to ” all areas ” of a functioning society.
    Again it’s fear dominated, if they don’t have the ” Christening ” etc Will their children be placed outside accepted levels of entry to schools, jobs etc.
    I believe the answer lies largely with parents to take on the fight for the right to bring their children up with their own values and not those imposed by a corrupt subliminal force.
    As Joyce stated in one of her comments ” Its convienant ” if she is not as stated ” A good Irish Catholic ” ( whatever that is ? ) then ” convienance ” is not an option in the continued search for a good rounded educational system.
    In my recent skirmishes with the ” Religious ” I treated him like a man puporting his role in the difficulties regarding my Grandson, He however although reeking of alchol on every meeting happily trotted out his highly conferred role as a pillar of all we are supposed to recognise as good helpful and wholesome, Not my idea of same.
    If parents continue to blindly, For the sake of convienance or fear , accept this scourge in the Educational system, They are ultimatly doing themselves and their children a gross disservice.

  4. Crackin’ post there Mairead. I found especially interesting the fact that religion is only supposed to be taught on Saturday and Sunday by law. I know we’re talking about Ireland here but surely breaking the law is breaking the law and one needn’t be a parent of a student to make a complaint. The law is being broke.
    Perhaps if a group were to make a complaint, wait for the authorities to do nothing and then take the authorities to task for failing in their duty to uphold and enforce the law of the State things might advance. This would completely bypass the Church and bring the issue directly to the state authorities so they could not try and fob off their resposnsibility.

  5. Thanks for the encouragement. :-)
    Error – “American countries” should read “American companies”.
    Clarification – 6.5% is every cheque – we pay 6.5% of our salary into our pensions every time we get paid (at least). It isn’t that we pay 6.5% of the total cost of our final pension.

    Darwin, I’m exhausted myself after writing it. Any small chance? I really don’t see it happening without a revolt of some kind from either the Government (?) or the majority of parents (?). I definitely don’t see the churches relinquishing their control of schools voluntarily, whatever the headlines might suggest.
    Builder, I’d like to hear that too, genuinely. A one-sided debate isn’t much good, and this subject needs to be debated.
    Norma, I think you’re right that parents do enable the staus quo. I don’t know if it’s because it is convenient or because they just don’t realise what goes on. It’s probably a bit of both.
    C’est la Craic, perhaps I should not have used the word “law”, seeing as this is Ireland we’re talking about it’s never that easy?? In 1831, the national school system was founded not on actual legislation but on a letter from Lord Stanley to the Duke of Leinster. It was thought better to do this, because it could then be tweaked without resorting to the British parliament to change the law. So, technically, it wasn’t legislation (law), but it was definitely the rule that religion had to be taught outside of the normal school day. If that rule was found to be broken the schools’ recognition would be removed, along with the grants. It was very, very serious. The rules that I quoted above still uphold that non-denominational ethos and philosophy today. However, it was never enacted in actual legislation. The first piece of legislation around Education in Ireland was the Education Act of 1998, so, you see, we’re not fond of putting things into law. [An extremely important law is the EPSEN Act (2004 – Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs) – that has yet to be enacted, and in fact has been indefinitely deferred…. ] Sorry, for the confusion there, C’est la Craic, it’s my fault entirely. If you wish to make a complaint, you can still definitely complain about the non-implementation of the Rules for National Schools (the ones in my post). However…….. you will probably be told that it is up to each individual Board of Management to uphold and implement these Rules, the Government like to wash their hands of all things educational! One route might be to possibly complain that the Patron (Bishop) of several hundred schools in a Diocese are not upholding / implementing the Rules for National schools?? It is quicksand, and designed to be so, I’m afraid.
    Any ideas?

  6. Thanks, Mairéad, for giving us chapter and verse! We think we know these things in a background kind of way, but we really need our noses rubbed in the reality, again and again, until we clear up the mess.

    Nominating two insurance companies! That’s one I hadn’t heard of, and I wonder what other services the bishop ‘nominates’.

    Look, it’s clear. They expropriated the schools from the state and local people, then actively facilitated and covered up the abuse of children. They still can not discriminate between the moral heinousness of child abuse and the ordination of women. Every national school should be expropriated from the Catholic Church and the bishop’s name taken off the deeds.

    No questions, no hesitation, no compensation.

  7. Eoin. Pedantry aside, What is the point in highlighing what are irrelevant ” facts ” based on information which does not change or benefit the dire need for change in the Educational system.
    A 6% difference, is irrelevant, given the link you provided, which contained good information but the variance in stats just makes no difference to the challenge facing our children and grandchildren.
    Why focus on the irrelevant when there is the option to change ? A 6% increase in the general movement toward extricating the Educational system from the thumbprint of Religion, Better yet a 92% or a 98% increase in the abolition of utter hypocrisy would be even better.

  8. You write of many things that I too have discovered to be true. I didn’t learn this overnight, it took a number of years of observation but I figured it out. The glaringly obvious differences between catholic and non-catholic primary schools here in Ireland first showed up when the non-denominational School Project opened in Limerick over twenty years ago. It was there I got my first look at what was really happening in the catholic owned primary schools through which I had been put as an idiot student many moons ago.
    The peevishly corrupt bishoprics, like our corrupt and scheming TDs, will go only in this manner; kicking and screaming.

  9. Pope, I think that’s the only way, and as unstranger says – kicking and screaming is how they will do it, if they do it at all. We are nowhere near it at present.
    Thanks, Eoin. Pedantry is a good thing here. I would be cross with myself if someone picked on this to show that everything else that I wrote was incorrect, so it’s important to have the facts straight. Some stats say 98%, others say 92%. Let’s call it “over 90%” in future. Thanks for the link too.
    Norma, your passion is great :-)

  10. Norma: I think the parents, teachers, children of the 197 schools that make up that 6% might disagree with you.

  11. 92% or 98% — not relevant to the core of this discussion. If I had said “the vast majority” you wouldn’t have quibbled and we’d still be talking about the same thing.

  12. Yea that’s ok but what Is the core of this discussion? Is it a policy based discussion on the what the future of education is / the role of the Catholic church in Irish public life / that Bishops have too much say in educational policy formation / that religion should not be taught in any schools….and of course comments can and have gone everywhere but what is the core of this discussion?

    And Bock, since the 92 / 98 data was put out there, I thought it was important to correct it. I’d be remiss as a researcher if I did anything less. If I had corrected it from 86% to 92%, would we still be talking about that. And by the way, 95% of children at primary level attend a denominational school. If someone else here had said it was 89% I would have corrected that.

  13. As far as I am concerned the core of my post was –
    Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Church DO run and control the vast majority of our schools.
    It was in response to assertions that they really have very little power anymore.
    O yes they do was my response.
    I don’t mind if it goes into other realms, but that was my point.
    I also don’t mind the correction, in fact, I am glad of it. It doesn’t impinge on the main point of my post though, but it’s correct to be correct.

  14. Thanks for that clarification Mairead. They still do have power, and I think one of the most neglected areas of examination of this power is what happens at Board of Management level. There’s far too much ambiguity about this level of management and this is something I hope to examine in good time over on

  15. Eoin — You have every right to correct a figure. I’m simply saying that the precise percentage has no bearing on the point made, and it would have been as well to say “the vast majority” or as Mairéad suggests “over 90%”, without losing any of the original post’s meaning. In this particular context, the 92/98 discussion is quite literallly academic.

  16. I notice the enthusiasm for ‘ attacking’ Eoin over his correction – surely you can’t all be that touchy !

    I can probably only address on or two points raised now. First a general comment Mairead as you were so happy to refer to me by name and attribute inaccurate statements to me. You seem to have quite a chip on your shoulders about Bishops but you haven’t really explained the reason for this.

    I don’t understand the problem about having religion at ” 12.noon- slap bang in the middle of the day ” . After such a dramatic statement, I thought you would go and and explain the sinister nature of the timing of religion classes, but no. Perhaps those in the teaching profession will understand the significance behind the timing – maybe you could explain. For myself as a former pupil and parent, i can see the practical advantages for a non- Catholic in having Religion at 12. In my school non catholics were able to go home and have lunch enjoying an full hour of freedom whereas those of us Catholics who went home for lunch had only half an hour to run home eat and come back. Even if non catholics were remaining in school, they could switch off.
    As for priests calling in regularly, please ! Again from my own experience, priests were conspicuous by their absence and my kids agree with this. Where do you teach ?
    As for ” They are always present, listening, absorbing “. I am afraid, there seems to be a touch of paranoia about this. Even Catholic kids absorb a great deal less than teachers realise – I am afraid once the ‘ Confir ‘ money has been spent, religion is really not that relevant. From memory the main interest then is picking holes in the whole religion business.

    Regarding finances, are you telling me that no catholic parish has given church land for schools or for extensions to schools or for other school uses such as playing pitches etc ? Have no parishes collected large sums of money for equipment, extensions etc ?

    Also has all primary education in this country been in State owned buildings/schools ?
    “Joyce finds it amazing that the Catholic church own 98% of all national schools ” Really ? I thought that I was suggesting that it is not surprising that the Church should have had so much involvement given the history of the country ! I will look back on my entries when time allows.
    ” She thinks, I think, that this means that they were built and funded by the Catholic church, but there were not. …” If you are not sure what I think, ask me, don’t put words in my mouth ! Occupational hazard ?
    I have to say that I have few friends and acquaintances in teaching – one in particular has discussed his own experiences and those of some of his teaching friends – good catholics ? Well some of the stories are not for the prudish !

    Dumbing down of standards : ” I have been teaching for decades, and I do not agree that there is a dumbing down of standards at primary level ” Well there is a surprise, a teacher who doesn’t believe there has been a dumbing down of standards in the area she works in.

    Pensions : please supply either actuarial references, links or some kind of facts I can refer to in order to verify the very vague statements you have made about pensions.

    Unions : ” the unions bow and scrape to the Bishops ” Here is maybe something we can agree on – I did suggest that the teachers were to a great degree responsible for the power enjoyed by the Church. Could I suggest something ? I suggest that instead of saying ‘ the unions bow and scrape to the Bishops’, you say my fellow teachers, my colleagues, bow and scrape to the Bishops. And this is the nub of the matter. I suggest you are angry that the majority of your teaching colleagues are quite happy to be teaching in a catholic school system and I rather assume that many or most of them want the system to continue without too much change. You cant blame the unions for the attitudes of your unions – you have to accept that the unions are the responsibility of the members ” Take ownership of the unions”.

    I am afraid the reference to Eileen Flynn is not quite as effective as you think – when was this exactly ?

    As for the Dail and Tds. Here again, you seem to be ignoring the fact that teachers have enormous influence in our parliament – how many TDs are from the teaching area ? 5 or six ministers ?
    About 20% of Tds/Senators are retired or still employed teachers. How is the quality of Ireland’s teaching profession reflected in the quality of the governance of the country ?

  17. Joyce — Maybe we should ask Eoin if he feels attacked. What do you think?

    You seem to have overlooked my earlier point regarding ownership of schools. Do you know of another enterprise where the landlord is given control of the business?

  18. I didnt address your point about Landlords because I thought it was a bit silly.
    However lets have a quick go : from what I can see the majority of church going catholics seem to see Bishops not as landlords running schools but as their representatives acting as patrons as schools. |And from what I can see the parents who have kids going to the catholics schools my kids have gone to seem to feel that the schools are good, … I will go further the Catholic primary and secondly schools my schools have gone to have been very good. Any occasional problems have revolved around individual teachers – yes teachers, not priests or bishops or principals. I know the primary school has a very effective Lay Principal and from what I understand, in the secondary school the kids attend, the school was on the verge of closing when the present Principal took over,
    You see I don’t have any particular grind to axe on the subject, unlike yourself and some of the posters here.

  19. Joyce — If the point was silly I wouldn’t have made it, would I?

    The clergy don’t do any teaching. They don’t pay the teachers. They don’t set the curriculum. They don’t set any examinations. They don’t define any teaching standards.

    Therefore they don’t deliver the education.

    All they deliver is the buildings, and if you care to read Mairéad’s post, you will see how they came to be owners of the buildings. The owner of a building is normally called the landlord, except in Irish primary education.

    If you want to go down the road of questioning people’s bona fides, we could be here all night, and it doesn’t reflect well on you, so I recommend dropping the ad hominem part of your comments, including accusations of paranoia. This is a courtesy requested of all contributors to this site, and not just you.

  20. What I don’t get is, why patronage is needed at all. If they didn’t provide the buildings, don’t set the curriculum, don’t set stardards etc.. what the fuck are they there for? Why have they any control if they don’t have any useful input.
    I accept Mairead’s experience of priests’ involvement in her school. I remember a bit of priest involvement when I was in primary school. They were particularly visible around the time of communion and confirmation. We had practice confessions in the weeks leading up to first communion.
    The farse of it though thinking back on it. Alone in a room with a middle age man and him encouraging you to come out with all your sins. I repeated the sins that they gave as examples because I didn’t really know what sins were. I would say I used to steal from my parents etc.. I never stole a thing in my life. I remember finding a religious book at home too when I was young, belonging to my older sister, who no doubt received it in school. It was basically about the sins of masturbation and sex before marriage. It was a bit perverted really.
    It’s all indoctrination into the Irish Catholic guilt phenomenon. It’s about time the state grew a pair of balls and took control of education.

  21. My first foray into the ” School system ” as a parent was to a rural school in the U.K., For the majority of parents this is a markedly important event, That particular experience was a very good one for my daughter, That was 33 yrs ago.
    However on our return to Ireland, Now with 2 children of age to enter Primary school, I was deeply shocked at the degree of Religious involvement and control in Irish schools, The degree of isolation and humiliation tactics employed and directed, actually toward many children but in particular my own because of their non participation in Religion classes and cermonies, I would not apply that to every school, I was lucky enough to encounter one only, forward thinking Principle, who eventually admitted the children even though we were outside the designated catchment area, But it was only one in 30 years..

    Not to make this overly long, From that time to my youngest daughter who sat her leaving cert in 2007, That was a battle with the system on and off for 30 years and now i see the very same battle in regard to my Grandchildren.

    It was always my belief that Religion was a choice and my choice was not to have one, I would always have accepted it if one or all my children choose as adults to adopt a Religion but being firm in one’s conviction to avoid superstition, fear and indoctrination in an Irish educational system is as someone else pointed out, ” wading through quicksand ” I completly failed to comprehend how a man who choose to follow a particular ideology felt he had the right to indicate to me that i was depriving my children from ” Education of Divinity ” The debate which persisted that i did not wish such ideologies to be imposed on my children was met with complete disrespect.

    The opening of The School Project in Limerick was a massive move forward and 2 of my children delightedly began on the first day, Unfortunatly, after a year and a half the 80 mile a day round trip was taking a massive toll on them so for health and well being they had to change.

    As a population I wonder if we apply enough logic when choosing the type of Education which will benefit our children, What we accept through history, environment , home and social influence is not generally revalueated and questioned when we have to make choices for our children.
    What is deemed to be acceptable and tolerated when handed down by the Church would not be accepted or tolerated by any other Institution, For example, ludicrous as it might sound, If the Law Society or the Institute of Auctioneers, poor examples maybe, donated land for a school to be built on by the state, Teachers paid for by the state etc etc but their own ideologies and practises had to be part of the admittance and curricular criteria, We would surely think that was completly insane and downright unacceptable, However because it is all based on that which is unacceptable to question, the continued leaching of such a genius control system keeps on working against the logical freedom and right to choose.

    Mairead say’s i’m ” passionate ” about all of this, My passion is not without quite a degree of anger and fraustration that now, in this generation of children I am seeing the same control and the taking away of dignity from parents who want no more than what they have the right to choose.

  22. Joyce, I tried to answer your queries in particular in my post, but others also. I see that you still have questions, and I will try to answer those also.
    There is no enthusiasm for “attacking” Eoin, as you call it, but he does not.
    I don’t believe that I attributed inaccurate statements to you. I do not have a chip on either of my shoulders. I do not have a problem with the Bishops. I do have a problem with State funds being used to pay for a particular religious’ ethos. I believe that we should have State schools, funded by the State. I very much welcome Catholic schools, but they should be funded by the Bishops, as they are in every other EU country. I also have a problem with teachers not having access to the law of the land open to other employees in Ireland. Do you have a problem with any of that, Joyce?
    The problem about having religion at “12 noon- slap bang in the middle of the day”, is that this is a very difficult time for parents to collect their children if they do not wish them to be part of the religion class. I thought that was obvious, Joyce, that was why I did not explain it further. You should not make the mistake of comparing your own school days to the present day e.g. very few children now go home for lunch, so the scenario you describe from your own childhood seldom happens in 2010. You say that “Even if non catholics were remaining in school, they could switch off”. Perhaps so, perhaps not. I don’t think it is fair to expect children of one religion to sit through religion classes of another religion, and brush this off as no big deal, because they can “switch off”. I agree with you that priests do not always call in to schools. They provide almost zero help with the teaching of religion. However, when they do call, it is very often at 12 noon to check that religion is being taught, and they say so.
    “Regarding finances, are you telling me that no catholic parish has given church land for schools or for extensions to schools or for other school uses such as playing pitches etc ? Have no parishes collected large sums of money for equipment, extensions etc ?” I am telling you that the people of the parish have given sites and money, but not the Bishops, despite having their names on the deeds.
    “Pensions : please supply either actuarial references, links or some kind of facts I can refer to in order to verify the very vague statements you have made about pensions”. I was not vague. The INTO research I referred to was privately funded by INTO and not published, but I did read it. If you do not believe me, say so, and provide your own facts before you state that you pay for public servants pensions.
    Yes, the unions (i.e. the teachers) do bow and scrape to the Bishops. They have to, to keep their jobs. I am not angry if any of my teaching colleagues are happy to be teaching in a catholic school system, that is up to them. There are few other schools in which to teach, how could I be angry? Do you call that choice? I am not angry at all, but I think that the State should not have to pay for a catholic school system, I think that parents should have a choice of religious or non-religious school, I think that teachers should not be forced to teach religion or to live a lie (e.g. gay teachers; atheist teachers; unmarried but co-habiting teachers; pregnant, but unmarried teachers). Do you disagree, Joyce?
    TDs who are teachers has nothing to do with this post, so I didn’t address it.
    The “good” catholic schools that you write about are actually good State schools, financed by the State but under the control of the Bishops. If the State took back their schools, and removed funding from Catholic (and other religious) schools. What do you think would happen? The State schools we have at present would continue on with the same teachers, same resources, same principal. Religion could be taught after school or at the weekend. The Catholic Bishops would have to open their own private schools, and charge parents fees.

    Bock’s point about Landlords was not silly, it was a good comparison. If you rented a shop from me, would I be entitled to hire the workers (you pay them); say what customers can come in to the shop; test the workers to ensure that they’re passing on my message? The Bishops do this to State schools. Do you think that’s right, Joyce?
    FME, I don’t know what they’re doing there? It’s to retain power and control over people. As the Jesuits said “Give me the boy, and I’ll show you the man”. The Bishops are clever and know that education is the key to controlling future generations. Ironically, that control is waning, because of education, but it is still alive and kicking at primary level.
    Norma, you had every right to raise your children, and educate them, without religion of any kind. The fact that you could not, is a basis for this thread.
    Eoin, glad to hear it, although I never doubted it.

  23. Mairead. I feel the entire endeavour was successful ! My children, all grown up now are happily devoid of any Religious ideologies, Its interesting to talk with them now of the ” school battles ” which for the most part appears to have gone over their heads.
    As adults they are very happy that they were raised without the constraints carried by many of their friends regarding Religion.
    My only point in the post above was that my rights as a parent were disregarded and the time and energy i wanted to pour into my children was too often taken up with just trying to maintain the happiness and contentment of school days, As I had many concerns regarding my course of action impacting on them.
    Thank you yet again for your enormous dedication to the true art of education.

  24. Thank you, Norma, for sharing your struggles with us :-)

    There’s a very interesting podcast from Today with Pat Kenny (today) – discussing the whole topic of the Bishops handing over schools to the State. It seems that the Bishops may hand over certain schools, but on the condition that they will be the patrons of new schools…….

  25. Before replying to a few individual points, let make a comment on myself. I have been publicly described as ‘ an enemy of the church’ because of criticisms I have made of the church and i no longer attend church as myself. So I am hardly the the typical defender of the church. Notwithstanding this I have been fortunate that the catholic primary and secondary schools my kids attended have been very good. And of the parents I know whose kids attended these, most of them seem to feel the same way. That parents way outside of their catchment areas seek to send children there speaks volumes. So are we delusional parents who are in awe to the might and majesty of the Catholic Church ? Hardly !
    So you will have to accept that I don’t share the sense of grievance and victim-hood that some of you seem to. Catholic education has worked for this family . One of my kids occasionally teases me about my copy of Richard Dawkin;s ‘ God Delusion’, I know that he has browsed through it and he wouldn’t have any problem in bringing it in to discussion in class. I know he admires one of the brothers who teaches him ( Yes Bock , there still are members of the religious teaching ) – this man is younger than me and was a relatively late entrant to the religious life – he was certainly not a holy Joe !
    And Bock, your comparison between Bishops and Landlords is inappropriate, because whilst landlords own buildings in their own right and are free to dispose of them as they see fit, Bishops do not own the school buildings – I presume they legally hold them as Trustees and I presume they are bound by whatever the Trust conditions are. Again this has been very much an arrangement that , whilst it may confer very definite advantages to the various Church denominations( not just the Catholic Church ) that use it, is one that Irish society has been part of and has traditionally consented to. All of us as adults must accept our responsibilities in this matter.
    I notice the repeated references to ‘ the Bishops’ as if they were some independent self- governing organisation to whom we have no choice but to obey. They are but one part of the system which the big majority of this country voluntarily belonged to. That it was, as adults, a voluntary membership, is evidenced by the fact that may of us have said ‘ no thanks, don’t believe anymore. Indeed this voluntary parting of the ways has also been seen amongst priests and nuns who have led the religious life..The members of the teaching profession who have taught in this system were/ are a vital part of this system and without their very willing co-operation, this system would have broken down long ago.This is particularly the case in recent decades as the number of religious actively teaching declined.
    I notice a determination amongst some posters to downplay the role of the teaching profession and/or to portray them as both as victims of the ‘ Bishops’ and of sycophantic unions. This is almost amusing given how militant the unions and their members have been in pursuit of salary claims.
    From my point of view, the Bishops and the teaching unions are just two of the main ‘Power Blocks’ who control education. That one is mainly concerned with promoting the policies and interests of the Church and the other is concerned with promoting the interests of union leaders, any political interests they have and the interests of their members is neither here no there to me. They are just two power blocks who have mainly co-operated with each other.
    I notice there has been very little comment on the political and economic influence of the teaching profession as a result of the high proportion of teachers who are involved in the Government in particular and at Local and National level generally. Now there is a source of power and influence that is seldom examined or discussed by politicians – for the reason that all the main parties have their contingent of teachers/ lecturers – The Catholic Bishops of Ireland must be green with envy !
    So what about bringing this into the equation ? As the power of the Bishops decline in education and in society generally, then relatively speaking the power of the teaching/political block is increasing. To repeat what I have already said, approximately 20 % of our legislators are from the education sector, including, I believe, six Ministers.
    Is it right that teachers should have this much control over our schools when they don’t provide buildings or land for sites, they don’t pay the wages of staff or maintenance etc, etc … Sound familiar ?
    Actually the teaching sector is in a much more favourable position that the Bishops ! All the benefits and none of the disadvantages.
    Now, quickly, re pensions, did you really intend to say this about pensions : ” The INTO research I referred to was privately funded by INTO and not published, but I did read it. If you do not believe me, say so, and provide your own facts before you state that you pay for public ” ? You are asking the public to accept, at face value, the conclusion of alleged research which they wont publish ? Where did we hear that before ? Ah Yes ! It was the Benchmarking process – they cant show the basis of comparision, because…. ?
    Conclusion, the private sector is financing the defined pension of the teaching system.
    Regarding teachers not having access to the law of the land applicable to other employees, could you be specific, very speciific about, what you are referring to ? And also could you tell the attitude of the relevant teaching union to this ?
    Could you also tell me as a parent, why I should involve myself in this ?
    Lastly, for now, what is stopping teachers unhappy with the present situation from setting up their own schools ? I sure in the current recession, there is no shortage of suitable buildings available.

    P.S Just a quote from Diarmaid Ferritter’s The Transformation of Ireland 1900 – 2000, page 88 :
    ” By 1900 the Caholic Church was in control of nearly 9,000 national schools, which made significant advances in reducing the illetracy of the population to just 12%, though the same attention to physical attention was not affordable…..”
    Do I need to say that the ‘Irish state ‘ did not provid these buildings ?. Whatever about the legimiate negative criticisms we can aim at the Catholic chruch, it also has a considerable body of achievement to be given credit for.

  26. Joyce, you are taking black and calling it white. I will try to be clearer.
    1. The Catholic school that you are praising, is NOT a Catholic school. It is a State school, but under the control of the Catholic church.
    2. Bishops do own the school buildings – their names are on the deeds – your presumption is wrong!
    3. This post is not about teachers. This post is about refuting the common misconception that Bishops no longer have much control over our schools. They have.
    4. I never said the INTO refused to publish their research, I said it was not published. Your conclusion that the private sector pay for the public sector pensions is based on very faulty logic.
    5. The Catholic Church did not bring about the literacy improvements during the 1900s, the teachers did.
    6. Finally, the Irish State did not exist in 1900, so you should give the credit to the British Government, who provided the grants to build schools and the funds to pay teachers.
    Is that clear enough?

  27. Mairead, from some of the posts here, I am posting ‘ inaccurate information ” and I am ‘ taking black and calling it white ‘. And then i am the accused of being personal !
    1. (1) Clarify this, are you saying that every school run under the Catholic ethos has had its buildings bought and or provided by the state ? Are you and your colleagues saying that all, stress all, primary school education has been provided by the state in state owned schools ?
    2. Do you understand the difference between owning property as your personal property, free to dispose of it as you wish and holding property in trust, be it formal or otherwise, by virtue of the post you hold ?
    3.Are you seeking to restrict the points posters wish to make ?
    4. The effect of not publishing and refusing to publish is exactly the same. As I mentioned previously. this is the same attitude we met with benchmarking. Ironically it is the kind of tactic we might expect from the Catholic Church. Ordinary people are required to finance the pensions of the public sector before trying to provide for themselves.
    5. The system run by the Catholic church, using mainly catholics educated by the Catholic system, brought about the literacy improvement.
    6. I rather assumed that you would have interpreted my opening comment ” Do I need to say that the ‘Irish state ‘ did not provide these buildings ?.” as meaning, amongst other things, that I was well aware that the Irish State was not around then – indeed that was the point !

    Have you decided not to engage with the notion of the declining power of the Bishops compared to the growing power of the Teacher/Political Block and the reality that is this block in particular that allowed the power of the church to continue as long as it has ?

  28. No Joyce. I’m restricting the points posters make.

    I’m telling you now that this post is not about teaching standards or teachers.

  29. Joyce, I am getting very bored with this conversation – it is going ’round and ’round in circles. I have tried to answer your queries clearly and concisely, but you don’t want to listen. You seem to think that I’m lying, for some unknown reason?
    Do you think that I’m lying, Joyce?
    I’m not.
    1. Yes, except for private, fee-paying schools. The people, the British Government and later the Irish State built the primary (national) schools in Ireland.
    2. Do you?
    When 3 national schools in my Diocese closed down over the last decade (some close every year around the country), they were sold, the Bishop got the money. Is that owning property enough for you?
    I am trying to get you to stick to the point and to Bock’s rules.
    4. Rubbish.
    5. Incorrect.
    The system was run by the British Government.
    6. I inferred from your statement – ” Do I need to say that the ‘Irish state ‘ did not provide these buildings ?.” as meaning that you believed that the catholic church provided the buildings. They did not. The British Government did. There was a “local contribution” required from the people, not the priests, but this was often waived.

    Would anyone else like to comment, and have a discussion of whether or not the Bishops have control of our primary schools?

  30. Good to see Mairead back in action.

    What Mairead says is true. My mother works in the local school (not in a teaching capacity) and says that every appointment to the school has to be verified by the local priest. If a bishop takes a dislike to the priest he can remove him from the board and replace him with another. Which has occurred. The approval of the priest (and bishop) is very important: were he not to be present, the appointment cannot be approved.

    The priest visits on a regular basis as priests did in my childhood. We spent an hour on religion and in my school it didn’t occur at 12 noon, it was around two o’clock or thereabouts, learning by rote those questions for confirmation. How we did envy the lone Protestant in our class…we didn’t say that at confession though!!!

    What Mairead left out though was how the church came to dominate our schools. Yes it was set up by the British. It was an advanced for it’s day and there was nothing comparable to it in Britain itself. But in the mid nineteenth century education became the hottest political issue of the day. Since the schools were non-denominational, they were natural breeding pens for immorality and godlessness. The church was determined to do battle against such evil and warred for the morals of the children. The church was far less concerned for literacy, numeracy etc. No MP in Ireland (excepting Unionist inclined constituencies) could get elected without the support of the church as it had terrified the people into believing that their children’s souls would be damned to hell were they to attend these schools, so they too clamoured in Parliament for the education system in Ireland to be run by the church. Eventually they succeeded and independent Ireland inherited this situation with no objection.

    There’s a lot of literature on this but I have none at hand as it’s nearly ten to one in the morning and I have had a bad day.

  31. Thanks, yobbah.
    You’re right education in Ireland became a massive power struggle for control of minds and hearts (souls?) during the 1800s and 1900s. Daniel O’ Connell used education and religion also to gain political points. All of the religious groupings were fighting and competing for control over education. The Catholics won out due to the greater number of Catholics in Ireland, not due to any educational expertise from the Catholic Bishops. Also, the Catholic Bishops agreed to the national school system very quickly (other religions disagreed with some aspects, and did not join right away), and applied for grant aid to establish schools all over the country. By the time that the other denominations woke up, they were not granted permission for funding another national school in a townland where one already existed. The power wielded by the church (Catholic) grew and grew, until they boycotted the British Government teacher training colleges, due to their non-denominational status and ethos. The local priest refused to appoint a teacher who had been trained in such a college, appointing untrained people instead. (This is only one instance where the Catholic church showed their disinterest in actually educating the children. It is also an example of how powerful the Catholic church was in education – appointing teachers – and they have held on to this role to this day).

  32. I came across the following articles recently.

    Basically it is impossible for a Teacher to study for a B.Ed without completion of Christian Doctrine in this country, Now maybe i’m very naive but how can Mary I teacher training college have ” designated charitable satus ” ? Are they not also state funded ? And if they had a surplus of over 2.2 mil in ’08 from charitable donations, Why are they now seeking further charitable donations to complete a 500 seat theatre ? And why in the current climate is that any kind of priority ?
    Whereas previously I believed the Church held onto every vestige of Education for power, indoctrination and control, I feel as though I’ve been very blind, Is it all about the money ?

  33. It seems to me, Joyce, that you received straight answers to your questions more than once, but you didn’t want to hear them. It also appears to me that you tried to steer this discussion down your chosen direction — a direction which had nothing to do with the subject matter. That sort of behaviour has always been unwelcome here because it’s disrespectful to other commenters and to the person who went to the trouble of writing the post.

  34. This is what I remember as odd, and in the little school I went too the practise continues. We were obliged to be in the church choir every Sunday. It was discussed Monday. We were obliged to serve Mass. We had a May altar to the blessed virgin (this may be gone by the wayside). All events were marked by a mass in the school or in the church. We practised hyms in school.We prepped for Communion and confirmation. It was a state school. My mother tried to have a teacher removed and was told she was an evil woman by the PP, even though said teacher taught absolutely nothing. he was a football hero though. Time for them to disappear, but why would they? Like a militant madrassa it’s part of the arsenal of power.

  35. Norma, thanks for the links.
    “Basically it is impossible for a Teacher to study for a B.Ed. without completion of Christian Doctrine in this country”. Yes, it is impossible. Well, you can probably choose to not do it, but if you want a job…….
    “How can Mary I teacher training college have ” designated charitable status ” ? Are they not also state funded ? ” Yes, Mary I. is state funded, it is also owned by guess who?
    “Whereas previously I believed the Church held onto every vestige of Education for power, indoctrination and control, I feel as though I’ve been very blind, Is it all about the money ?” I think it’s all about power, control and money, Norma. In the end, though, the trail seems to always lead back to the cash.

    Joyce, I was not inappropriate with you. I asked you a question, I thought it was highly appropriate given the number of times I had to answer the same questions again and again from you. As Bock just told you, you received straight answers to your questions more than once, but you didn’t want to hear them.

    Joyce, you ask now – what is to replace them ? Here is my answer, as straight as I know how to give it to you. Replace the Bishops with the State of course.
    The State can continue to give grant aid to schools; pay teachers; pay SNAs; pay secretaries; pay caretakers and cleaners; set the curriculum; inspect schools; provide grant aid for teacher education.
    The State can take over the appointments of all school staff – by employing top people in the education field to short-list, interview and appoint teachers. No pull, no push, no religion needed.
    The State can take possession of all school buildings and yards, for which grant aid was provided by the State.
    The State can remove religion from the school day as a compulsory subject, and allow various religions to rent the school (if they wish) for religious instruction after school hours or at the weekends. (This is what was intended when the national School system was established in 1831). This would remove Rule 68 of The Rules of National Schools –
    Rule 68
    “Of all parts of a school curriculum Religious Instruction is by far the most important…..”
    The State can make religion an optional subject for trainee teachers. Those who undertake it will be qualified to teach religion after school or on Saturday / Sunday, paid by the church not the State.

    EashtGalwayWoman, very little has changed. Many children in many schools continue to be obliged to attend choir, mass and altar. Many / most schools still have a May altar to the blessed virgin. Many / most schools still mark events with a mass in the school or in the church. Hymns are still practised in school. Children are still prepared for Confession, Communion and Confirmation. If parents realised how many hours, how many days, how many years are spent on preparing the sacraments, I think they would be totally shocked. Remember, though, that religion is the most important subject, remember that.

  36. Mairead, would you write into Kevin Myers with those suggestions.
    I remember reading this article back in February from him..

    From the article:
    “The latest comes from the dogmatic secularist liberals of D4 and D6, calling for the removal of the Catholic Church from its role as the lead-custodian of our primary schools…
    Look. Before we surrender to the secular liberal dogmatists and give them what they supposedly want, let’s ask a couple of questions. Firstly: do they actually know what they want?…
    And who is then going to implement their vision? Civil servants from the Department of Education? …And tell me, which part of Dail Eireann do you trust? That which recently made it illegal to buy a bottle of wine on a Sunday morning before noon? …

    …..There are seven teachers’ training colleges in Ireland, all run by religious organisations.
    But it is simply a distortion of the truth to say that in all of them — qua Fintan O’Toole in the ‘Irish Times’ — “every single course is run by a Christian college and obliges every single student to both learn and teach Christian doctrine”. No one is obliged by a training college to teach anything. Teaching occurs in schools.
    How it is done and who does it is the business of teachers and of their heads. … ”

    This is simply inaccurate. Right? How it is done is NOT the sole business of teachers? And where he says, “No one is obliged by a training college to teach anything. Teaching occurs in schools”, that’s being pedantic . Of course teaching occurs in the schools but student teachers are required to learn the Christian doctrine if they want a job, like you say.
    He promotes the Catholic education ethos a few times in the article.. why does religion have to be involved in any educational ethos though?

  37. I might, FME, but the trouble is that my employer (the Bishop) might decide to sack me!
    I’m not joking, when I say that! I am obliged to “uphold the ethos of the school”, I’m not allowed to criticise it.
    Myers is all surface information, he should spend a few weeks in a school or a college of education, and find out what choices teachers have. We have to teach the curriculum, and we have to teach religion. We have to have a qualification in religion to teach religion.
    It’s an employer’s market at the moment, the priests can choose the best boys and girls to teach in their schools, because there are hundreds (well over a thousand) of unemployed teachers clamouring for even short-term employment.
    What do you think of my suggestions, FME?

  38. Excellent suggestions Mairead!
    For the State to remove the Church from education they would need the backing of the Irish people and I’m not sure that’s where the general consensus is at the moment or will be anytime in the near future.
    It’ll take another generation or two to change the mindset that the Church deserves so much respect. (Kevin Myers being an example of the current mindset).

  39. I wholeheartedly support your suggestions Mairead, However my doubts as to the reality lay in the following.

    ” The curent 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. ” Batt O’Keeke Dail Eireann Dec 2009.
    Sec 15 of Education Act ’98. Board of Management manages school on behalf of Patron.
    I interpret that as the Board of Management have free rein provided it adheres to Patrons ethos ?

    Sec 7. of Equal Status Act 2000-2004 provides an exemption allowing said schools under Church Patronage to exclude ( discriminate ) against children who are non catholic, to ” maintain ethos of school ”

    If the state were to solely take over the running of schools there would have to be massive legislative changes and would you believe or trust ” The State ” as we know it to-day to execute a plan for the Education of children and remove themselves wholly from the influence ( control ) of Bishops ?
    Among the ” secularist liberals ” from D4 and D6 there is also a well peppered population of ” Opus Dei ” just in case Mr Myers had’nt noticed.
    However, if anyone can implement positive change it will be you Mairead.

  40. So if you were Mormon, Muslim, Hindu etc and wanted to be a teacher in Ireland you would have to train in Catholic studies???Are there any exemptions or is it a moot point in that you might never be hired if it were to emerge that you are of a different religion? Isn’t that discrimination on the basis of religious belief/or lack therof.
    Since so many teachers are women and the Catholic Church is so anti women isn’t it an awful kick in the teeth? Perpetuating another round of misogyny. It’s got to be very hard to stand your ground when the system is so heavily favored to the Catholic machine.
    Mairead, how does the new phenomenon of multiculturalism in the classroom work with this ? Has anyone from the pupil side pushed the envelope?

    I am so long gone and yet so shocked that little has changed in this sense.

  41. The Employment Equality Act excludes religious groups from discrimination obligations. This law was introduced by B Ahern.

  42. The church are just like Fianna Fail, they’ll do whatever it takes to hold on to power. Every little concession has to be dragged from their hands kicking and screaming, but slowly and surely the church’s power will be eroded away.

  43. Bock when I saw the heading on your blog ‘ Bock the Robber 20% more offensive’ , I didnt expect to find someone who was so biased and intent on pandering to one particular group !
    How funny ! You are really not that different from the Bishops you criticise.

  44. Is that so, Joyce?

    First, this post is not about me. It’s about the bishops’ control of schools. You just can’t seem to get that into your head, probably because you don’t want to.

    Second, I have never facilitated child abuse and I have never concealed a crime from the police. I’d say that was a significant difference between me and the bishops. Wouldn’t you?

    You have already been asked — in line with the site policy — not to personalise the discussion. Are you going to respect this?

  45. FME, you are right. For the State to remove the Church from education, the people will have to insist very strongly. This is not likely to happen in the near future. Joyce is a very good example of the why there will be no change. She tells us that she has no time for the Catholic church and is not a believer, yet she insists that there’s nothing wrong with the current national school system, even when she’s told exactly what’s wrong with it.

    Norma, yes, you hit the nail on the head. As long as the State distances itself from taking responsibility and continues to kowtow to the Catholic church, we will have no change at all. Sec 15 of Education Act ’98. Board of Management manages schools on behalf of the Patron – the State and the individual BOMs do all the work, the Patron takes the credit and keeps the control. The State has made it legal for various religions to discriminate against children and against employees, yes, so you are correct we will need massive legislative changes as well as massive mindset changes in order to remove primary education from the Catholic church (and other religions). Thank you for the flattering vote of confidence, Norma, but I don’t have that power I’m afraid. I have promised myself though, that I will fight this one once my household can bear the financial strain of me possibly being sacked. I am a few years away from that yet, but it is my firm intention, not because I have any chip on my shoulder about the Catholic church, because I don’t. Here are my reasons: (1) the Catholic church, in my long experience, don’t know much about education, so they shouldn’t be in charge of it (2) the system is very unfair (3) children’s education really suffers due to the amount of time being spent on religion (4) religion is not the most important subject on the curriculum (5) parents should have a choice – religion should not be compulsory (6) teachers deserve the same workers’ rights as every other worker (7) the current system of appointing teachers is very corrupt and unfair.

    EashtGalwayWoman, there are a couple of points here – (1) Schools in Ireland and (2) Colleges of Education in Ireland. (1) A huge percentage of national schools in Ireland are controlled by the Catholic church (high 90s percentage wise, thanks, Eoin). There are also Church of Ireland schools and a few Muslim schools. There are also multi-denominational schools (Educate Together Schools) but very few, and distance ensure that they are not a choice. There are also Gaelscoileanna that teach the sacraments etc… but are not under the patronage of the Catholic church. There are a few private schools also. In most cities, towns and villages there is no multiculturalism, people attend the local Catholic controlled State school, and have to fit in, or tough luck. Not only would a non-Catholic NOT be hired to teach in such a school, non-Catholic children could be refused admittance also! Legally! It is of course blatant discrimination, but the State gave a dispensation to the Catholic church (and other religions) and allow them to legally discriminate away as much as they wish, to protect their “ethos”. I have come across a few strong-willed parents and a few delightful children, who proclaim their own faith and refuse to partake in anything Catholic. This is all fine on the surface, but no alternative arrangements are made for the children. They sit through religion class, prayers and hymns and are bound to be picking it all up, despite their protestations. I feel particularly sorry for them at sacrament time, because very little other than religion goes on in schools during confession, communion and confirmation times. Confirmation in particular is a killer, with the PP putting on a gala show trying to please the Bishop (i.e. getting the teachers and children to put on the gala show, they do pretty much nothing themselves). (2) There are seven colleges of education in Ireland for “training” teachers. Five are Catholic, one is Church of Ireland and one is a privately owned and maintained college (no grant aid). All offer extensive religious education for the trainee teachers. In fact, more time is spent on educating our future teachers on how to teach religion to our children than on some of the core curricular subjects. In addition, far, far more time is devoted to teaching trainee teachers about religious education than on how to teach children with learning difficulties (prevalent in every single classroom in Ireland). A new standard application form has been introduced (instead of a CV) for teachers applying for jobs in schools. Applicants must state the religious qualification obtained, form where, when and the modules studied (this level of detail is not required about any other curricular subject). Applicants must write up to 150 words to describe how they will contribute to the ethos of the school on this standard application form (but do not need to mention how they will contribute to the teaching of English, Irish, Maths, PE. History, Geog, Science, Art, Drama, Music, or to children’s learning in general).
    Some people (who don’t know what they’re talking about) like Kevin Myers, might say that you do not need a religious qualification to teach in our national schools. I would like to see a teacher submitting this new standard application form and leaving those two sections blank – who thinks they would get a job?

    Bock is right. The Employment Equality Act excludes religious groups from discrimination obligations.

    Joyce, what are you on about now when you attack Bock? Why do you insist on trying to deflect the subject and focus of this post? It won’t work.

    Vespasian, I agree with you that power will not be given up easily. I wish I could agree with you that power will be eroded away slowly but surely. I can see no sign of that, despite people criticising the church and giving up going to mass. The Catholic church has just as tight a control of our national school system as it ever had. That, Joyce, is what this post is about.

  46. Mairead, I appreciate the time it takes you to answer these questions in detail. This is fascinating and horrifying at the same time.

  47. It is, EGW. The amazing thing is that peope don’t know about these things, and even when they’re told they won’t listen.
    It does take time to answer, definitely, but Bock has a very large readership and so it’s worth the time to try to let people know what’s really going on.
    Kevin Myers doesn’t know.
    Thank you for listening and believing!
    You are in a good position, form afar, to advise us on what we could do. Any suggestions?

  48. Here’s our situation. My kids go to a magnet school. It’s public and the intent of the magnets is to bring kids from various townlands and cities to one school. 5 school districts feed into it, the enrollment is by lottery. 40% of the kids are inner city, impoverished and a racial minority, the other 60% are suburban, well heeled and white or Asian. I’m detailing this out because it’s a very important part of the school. The focus is truly on success, and the goal is to find every child’s talent. It’s an extended year and an extended day. From the suburban parent perspective you send your kids there to experience a bit more than this sheltered life we lead, as well as for the academic reasons.For the urban, many times it’s the chance of a lifetime to try to crack the poverty cycle. The home lives of these kids are unreal, but someone in their family cares enough to try to get them into this school and out of the cycle hopefully.
    Religion pays little part of it though is acknowledged, insofar as its a part of the student’s culture/background/heritage. The kids raised “pennies for peace” to build schools in Afghanistan and learned about Islam and the traditions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, They learn about Hannukah, Christmas, Eid etc all as part of getting to know their peers.

    When we had the kids in regular public school any mention of religion was forbidden. No Merry Christmas, no menorah, St. Patrick’s Day mentioned nothing about religion at all for example. The school was completely homogenous, white and Christian but not a word, literally, could be mentioned. That actually headed toward censorship, but looking at some of the biblebelt states that’s probably not a bad thing. During this school stint, my kids went to CCD which basically is Cathecism, it was almost 2 hours once a week. I had a problem with dropping kids off to the hands of potential zealots and scheduling difficulties with having an athlete child, and decided to take the power out of their hands a bit. Through a nice parish I homeschool the CCD and my kids do a test at the end of the year. This has been the best idea ever. I control the message now. My husband calls it the “feminist theory of cathecism”. We dissect, question and discuss every chapter from tons of angles. It’s not fire and brimstone, I will not allow any body shame messages and I let them know when I think it all sounds like fairytales, I listen to their opinion. My goal is to give them some theory of religion, a basis for questioning, and an absence of a vaccuum so they won’t join the moonies or something:)
    The irony of the whole thing is though I’m a major skeptic and my husband is hugely antiCatholic the kids are quite spiritual with a nice God, a view of heaven, and a good open mind. They work with the food bank, the homeless etc. out of their good nature, not an avoidance of hell:)
    I put a ton of thought into this childraising religious stuff. I am appalled by the antiwoman Catholic church. I wrestled with my kids having anything to do with it. We will wrap up the examination of the religion around 11 or 12 I think and then let them have their own religious angst by themselves:) I think it’s a long way from rote-learning the commandments and praying for the souls in purgatory.

    So, I suppose ideally what everyone should have is a choice. My choice to keep it simple. Another’s choice may be to go God Squad in a Catholic school or to a yeshiva etc. or nothing at all. I do feel strongly though that freedom of religion is also freedom from religion. The more I thought about it I was politically or socially Catholic, not particularly religous Catholic. A Catholic by default and historical defiance if you will.

    As to Ireland like so many other places, apathy is a curse. Until it becomes offensive to the majority nothing will be done. Adding cathecism as an optional outside of school hours situation would be the ideal I would think. Of course, insurance objections, the old faithful, would arise. The only less contentious route to take would be to argue that the ever-expanding curriculum does not allow for so many hours of instruction, performance is suffering etc etc. The old “think of the children” approach. Mind you given the Church’s treatment of kids I’m sure they wouldn’t buy in but maybe the parents would. I’m not sure that the government has the cojones to support that though.
    When you hash out these things can’t you see how the Magdelene’s existed? It takes a mass effort to crack the power stanglehold. Threats of losing a livelihood, the wrath of the PP on the family etc. Plus ça change …………….

  49. EGW, that sounds like an excellent system that you have there. It makes such sense.
    I think you’re right – showing parents how their child’s education is suffering through such an onus on religion is probably the way to get them to shout up?
    For a recently rebellious country, we’re not very rebellious at all.
    We can’t / won’t even stand up for our children…..

  50. Mairead. I too deeply appreciate the time and risk you are taking in providing the insight you have.
    I think the posts from EGW, FME, Bock and yourself Mairead are opening up the real reasons why the Church maintains the hold it has on Education and the dependence on their ” Goodwill ” for the livlihood of Teachers and all those involved in the process.
    The meaning of ” Rebel ” or ” Rebellion ” is disambiguation, To rise in opposition, resist control and/or convention, I wonder how though that is defined in Irish society ? The development of Irish society strongly resisted any deviation from what was defined as the ” norm ” either at societal or individual level, It was par for the course to be seperated from the herd should the path be deviated from.
    The horrors which were covered up, the suffering that was endured, on revelation should have been met with a massive uprising of unacceptance and extreme indignation.
    Are we as a people so disabled as to be perpetually unwilling to examine our own views with a modicum of care which might abandon any self motivated agenda and look to the future that can only be created by us for our children and grandchildren.
    I believe our tolerance levels for what is imposed upon us as a society is persistently dictated by others and we are resistent to personal review out of fear of judgement by our society as it has been shaped in the ethos of the Church and its mentally dormant politicians.
    Therefore I conclude that the onus for ” Rebellion ” and however we define that is on us the individuals to dedicatedly overhaul whatever mind set is holding back the development of this Country for future generations.
    The truly evolved intelligent person is willing to give more to the world than he/she recieves in return, The cunning person always expects more than they are willing to give.
    We are being Governed and held back by the cunning, We need to educate them or eradicate them from their seats of power.

  51. ” according to Cork South Central TD Michael McGrath.
    “The SMA Fathers have generously offered to provide a site free of charge for the proposed new school building. The Department has assessed the site and has confirmed it is suitable for the provision of the new school building.”
    An acquaintance kindly emailed me the info above from a Cork website outline the offer of a free site in the more upmarket area of Blackrock in Cork , free of charge. This is a remarably generous offer.
    I imagine this type of donation has occurred in many areas of the country over decades. Before anyone suggests that it is the parishioners who are actually donating the land, they are not – in fact the SMA is a missionary institution and is not the parish church of this area. So here we have concrete proof that the State does not provide all school sites, but that the Catholic Church does indeed sometimes put its money where its mouth is as well.

    ” We need to educate them or eradicate them from their seats of power.” This appers to be quite a radical thought. I presome you mean the current Government; well the reality is that they secured more support from the electorate that the opposition – that is the nature of democracy – and no i didnt vote FF.

  52. Joyce. Firstly ” generosity ” is a very relative gift, With regards the ” Gift of a site ” from the SMA Fathers, Do you know if this “Gift ” comes with or without any attatchments of ” Ethos ” predicated by SMA Fathers ?
    The objectives of the SMA according to their own website is ” Evangelization ”
    I have this strange belief that if it ” sounds too good to be true, It probably is ”
    Check out DROMANTINE on the website, I think those guys are doing ok financially and their ” gift ” might fall into a more relative catagory.
    I would’nt be at all familiar with ” Parishes ” in general, Fact is SMA have 2 parishes in Cork, How they are defined geographically, I would’nt know.
    With regard how you quoted from my post ” We need to educate them or eradicate them from their seats of power ” I should have altered that to ” They need to be educated or eradicated from their seats of power ” As I am not claiming I have the capacity to do either.
    However, to be clear I was not referring to the current Government, I respect the Democratic process, Even though I dislike the result, I was referring to the CUNNING among us, Those who populate the system upon which we depend, I am referring to Politicians incl Co Councillors, Church, HSE , Education , Law and Equality etc etc.
    If you think that to rid ourselves of the “Cunning ” people intent on cover ups and continued focus on their own agenda is a ” Radical thought ” Then what would you suggest as a more reasonable solution ?

  53. Joyce, first of all, I don’t remember anyone saying the State provided all sites, despite your insistence on returning to that theme time and time again.

    Secondly, as I already said, there is no logic at all in the owner of a site having control of what goes on in the buildings constructed there.

    If they want to donate a site, that’s very nice of them. I Now let them go away and let the State run the school. Or alternatively, let the State thank them and graciously refuse their offer.

    f it comes with the condition that the SMA priests are in control of the school, it isn’t free of charge.

  54. Well first of all. without trawling through all previous posts, the whole theme of this thread is that, essentially, the Catholic Church is a free loader, taking all the advantages and providing nothing in return. This is just one example, and I am sure there are many more, of an institution belonging to the Church donating valuable land to provide a site for a school. I m assured by an individual, not a catholic by the way, that this SMA church is not a parish church for the Blackrock area and the land could in no way be regarded as being belonging to parishioners. He says this particular Church and assorted buildings and lands serve more as a retirement home now though it seems to function in many ways as an ordinary church with weddings, masses etc.
    The land was purchased in 1879 so obviously it predates the founding of the State. Personally I don’t see the relevance of whether it is a parish church or not. The land could as easily been sold off to help fund the retirement of the Orders ageing priests.

    I am still puzzled by the reworded statement you make : ” They need to be educated or eradicated from their seats of power ” . I have several times alluded to the fact that a significant portion of our political body is comes from the teaching profession and has significant influence. Do you include
    people such as Michael Martin, Batt O Keeffe, Mr Dempsey, Enda Kenny and all those other former/ current teachers who hold positions in politics as being amongst the ‘ Cunning’ ?
    And most of all what would you replace the catholic system with ? Should our primary system be controlled by Public Sector mandarins whose main aim would be to have a Politically Correct, left leaning system that corresponds to their own personal value system ? And in what way would that be superior to the current primary system.

  55. I have read through some of the earlier posts here, many of which were informative.
    My eldest son starts school tomorrow and until now I was under the mistaken impression that things had changed since I went to school 79-92 and was being told as late as 92 that Adam and Eve was fact (and that regime was progressive compared to my parents’). I had heard that children received religious instruction but it was general in nature and focussed on general principle of good morals. Sounded pretty good to me.

    I was wrong – and having just flicked through the veritas religion book. I have now to make the following choice to make which I am really struggling with:

    Do I withdraw my child from religious instruction and make a stand based on my principles? I dont tend to go with the crowd – despite being from a deeply Catholic family I did not marry in a Church and I did not baptise my children. However as a parent I am torn. I dont want my child to feel excluded in school and in any case I dont feel it would work to say – don’t participate. Of all the comments I have read above the one I found least enlightened suggested children dont absorb! Given the lack of school choices I have my son is likely to receive some degree of Catholic indoctrination no matter what I choose and that saddens me.

    I just wish the people of this country would step back, look at the big picture, the terrible history and present role of the church and realise it has no role in civil society. Religion should be personal choice only and the ties with civil governance need to be severed. The starting point should be schools as all the power emanates from there. Unfortunately, in a democracy, we get the politicians we deserve so I am not sure change will be quick but going back to the point of my own eductaion and that of my parents I do think we are least going in the right direction.

  56. Joyce, you have totally missed the point of this thread.
    You really have been told enough times now, but here it is again – This thread is addressing the false belief that Catholic Bishops no longer have power in our primary schools.

    Fergmeister, my heart goes out to you. It is hard being torn between your principles and your children. Go with your children. Your principles will shine through in the end. :-)
    This is what has happened to so many people (including myself). They do not want indoctrination, but neither do they want persecution. In the absence of choice, we have no choice.

    Norma, I have been giving a lot of thought to your last two posts, especially where you talk about the “cunning”. It has really touched a chord with me, and I think that you have hit on the crux of our country’s difficulties. We were reared to be cunning through generations of caution. We admire the cute hoor as a nation. That cunning, cute hoor is a mé féiner who deserves no admiration. Have we become a nation of mé féiners who will accept any old balony, as long as I’m alright, Jack? Hark, a commenter here who defends the continuation of something she doesn’t even believe in…. I find that incomprehensible, but much about our country has me baffled.

  57. P.S. I meant to add Fergmeister – if your child is not baptised, he will not receive the sacraments, and so he will be “different” already. The school / priest are probably uncertain as to how to proceed religion-wise with your son. Think about it, but don’t worry about it. Good luck tomorrow.

  58. I’m starting to wonder about Joyce’s motivations. Normally, a commenter — even the extreme Israeli one — can be induced to address the points people make, but not in Joyce’s case.

    I’m going to make this point one final time, and if Joyce won’t show sufficient respect to answer it, I think she’s sending a clear message that she wishes to conduct this discussion on her own terms. That won’t happen.

    Joyce, I have requested you over and over again to explain why ownership of the land by the church should give the bishop control of the school built on it.

    Address that single point before you go any further.

  59. I’ve devoted a lot of my working afternoon reading a lot of the commentary on this site – not blaming anyone in particular for taking my mind of the job I actually get paid to do, but some of the contributors have been extremely well informed and others wonderfully researched.

    This thread has been riveting. But I’m hopelessly depressed by the role of Bishops and the Church. I didn’t realise the extent of their involvement (apologies for my ignorance). I’ve depressed by the tragedy of the wasted political years from 1921 onwards, and the catastrophe of the wasted financial years of 1973 onwards. And that’s before we get to the the state-wide pillaging of the last decade. It hasn’t all been doom and gloom – I personally have wasted a lot of time on this site talking about Boch’s sore finger (which still exercises my thoughts).

    But,in all seriousness, to free ourselves from Bishops, and everyone else who is to blame, it is time for a New Republic. I’m not talking about stringing people up, setting fire to “legitimate targets”, jailing and punishing those responsible (although god knows that would be just). I just want a new constitution. France is on its fifth. We need to embrace the 2nd Irish Republic – and that will enable us to effect a clear-out of the role of the Church and of the incompetent criminals in Parliament. And that should be the limit of our ambitions. Everyone will thank us in decades to follow.

    in all the Irish blogs and papers I’ve been reading, no-one has called for a Second Republic. No one (and i am prepared to be corrected on this) has called for, in any comprehensive way, a fundamental re-drafting of the essence of this state, its Consitution. People want all manner of changes – Bishops to go, the church’s role to be reduced, politicians to be less hideous, banks to fail or not to fail, pensions to be reformed, infrastructure to be improved…the list of what is wrong in “modern Ireland” is striking. Those who are to blame continually mock those complaining by saying (and i paraphrase: “you point out what you dont like, but you dont suggest a solution. So we will ignore you and carry on”.

    Well, as i have said, I have one. A new Constitution. A non-revolutionary (by that i mean non-violent) introduction of a New Constitution.

    I’ve already started to write one. I’ve got as far as the first paragraph:

    In the Name of Freedom, we, the people of Éire,
    humbly acknowledging all our obligations to each other, and to those who helped us to gain freedom through centuries of trial,
    Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation,
    And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,
    Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Second Irish Constitution.

    One of the many rational souls on this thread should write the education chapter.

  60. Fergmeister. I will throw my tuppence worth of personal experience to you for what its worth.
    I did’nt exclude my children from Religious cermonies, teachings etc because of my principles, I truly believed in my role to nuture their young minds and prevent them from being confused and to try to build their own skills mentally and physically based on a strong sense of reality and personal investigation of whatever it was they were curious about, attracted to and had a talent for.
    I felt that curtailment of their personal freedom based on ideology which had no substance might prevent them from embracing and understanding the challenges which would present to their generation.
    Apart from Religion, I struggled with the entire idea of schools adamant adherance to what had been created as ” the norm ” I think childhood and teenage years are the times where expression of creativity is a vital factor in a young person honing their personal skills in preparation for indepence and individual coping with the world.
    The whole concept of same colour shoes, no self expression via hair etc has a negative impact on accepting and embracing difference, We are now a multi cultural society and the acceptance of other peoples beliefs and choices is even more important for children.
    Its not really a question of “our principles ” its about doing the best for our kids based on the knowledge we have accumulated, In my day it was most likely I would remain in Ireland, As it happened, I did’nt but now the liklihood is that your children will have to embrace many new challenges and cultures and what you are doing in removing Religious ideology is giving them the first headstart.
    I also worried about the exclusion part of this but now that they are all grown up I can see how they benefitted from the entire experience, It does though take time and patience to pick through how they are feeling and thinking about all of this but you sound like you have really thought this through,
    I wish you the best of luck, Its brave.

  61. Bock have you actually read through my posts in any sort of detached manner ? Or do you simply pick out the points you want to disagree with ? Let me do a sort of quick summary :
    I am not actually arguing that the traditional system that pertained up to recently should continue. I have pointed out that I am not now an active member of the Catholic church and that choice of schools for my kids was made on the basis of what I thought would be the best options for them in the circumstances- as it happens Catholic schools were the best option and provided a decent education for them and still do.
    I have pointed out that the Catholic Church’s control of Irish education is being diluted and will continue to be diluted – no doubt as it should. I have been an ardent critic of the catholic church in different arenas but don’t particularly see the need to join in the ‘ Bishop bashing’ as regards this subject and certainly don’t see the need for ‘ political correctness’ either.

    I have pointed out, i think, that an analogy can be drawn between the kind of leadership role played by Bishops in Irish society and the supposed leadership role played by Irish politicians. Both are representative of kinds of Irish society and both have widespread support in the population for the roles they play. The reality is that from what i have seen very many Irish parents still support the Catholic Education system. And that in itself gives some justification for some continued involvement of the church in some or many of our schools. So in the instance I think you are referring to in post 62, should the donation of the land, the ownership of it give control of the school to the Bishop, well on its own I don’t think it does but in conjunction with the support of some many of the Irish people in this area for continued Catholic Church education, then yes I think it does. After all no one on this thread seems to be arguing against protestant control of Ashton College further down the Blackrock road or for the Islamic control of the number of Islamic schools in Dublin. Surely the Church of the Irish majority is entitled to the same consideration as the churches of minority religions ?
    For the record your comment ” I’m starting to wonder about Joyce’s motivations. Normally, a commenter — even the extreme Israeli one — can be induced to address the points people make, but not in Joyce’s case ”
    is just one more personal attack you have made on me.

  62. Joyce — That’s not a personal attack. That’s an observation of your evasive responses. Try to tell the difference. My question, as I think you know well, was not about your example of the SMA fathers, but about the principle that a local Bishop should control a school simply because the church had some involvement in acquiring the land on which it stands. I think you have now agreed that this is not logical.

  63. Aston is one of the most progessive secondary schools in Cork, Joyce. Most of the students in Aston come from a vast assortment of religious backgrounds, and I suppose choose that school as there is not a huge emphasis on religion, unlike the majority if not all of Catholic schools.

  64. The main premise of your argument is false, Joyce.
    The power of the Catholic church over primary education in Ireland is not diluted.
    My post showed that, surely?

    I did not mention Protestant or Muslim schools, Joyce, because this post is not about Protestant or Muslim schools.
    You continue to praise Catholic primary schools. I continue to try to tell you that these are State schools usurped by Catholic hierarchy.
    You mention that many people in Ireland are happy with our “Catholic schools”. Do they realise the input of the Catholic church? I think not. If they did, would they still be happy? Doubtful. If they had a choice of State school with the Bishop’s fist on it, or State school with after school religion – which school would the majority choose? More and more teachers would choose the latter. The point of this post is to inform, and let people make up their own informed mind.

  65. I’m not trying to be antagonistic, just curious.
    Joyce mentioned a degree of ” convienance ” in her choice of schools, She went on to suggest the lack of impact on non catholics remaining in same classroom during catholic instruction.

    Joyce went on to air her displeasure at an extra day in school year of parent/teacher meetings.
    I’m curious as to how Joyce would treat the possibility of Catho;ic religious instruction outside of the current time of a school day.

    How many non sacrament taking, non mass going parents would sign up for Catholic Religious instruction outside of school hours ?

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