Ruairi Quinn Announces Review of Primary School Patronage

Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn, has set up a forum on patronage and pluralism in primary schools.  His statement defines the forum’s role as follows:

[To advise him]

1.   how it can best be ensured that the education system can provide a sufficiently diverse number and range of primary schools catering for all religions and none;

2.   the practicalities of how transfer/divesting of patronage should operate for individual primary schools in communities where it is appropriate and necessary;

3.   how such transfer/divesting can be advanced to ensure that demands for diversity of patronage (including from an Irish language perspective) can be identified and met on a widespread basis nationally.

On the face of it, this looks like progress in removing the bishops from control of our primary schools, but ominously, Quinn’s statement goes on to say

In undertaking this work the Forum will, in particular, have regard for the following:

  • the expressed willingness of the Roman Catholic Church to consider divesting patronage of primary schools
  • the current financial constraints within which the State is operating, the need for continued restraint into the future and the requirement in this context to make maximum use of existing school infrastructure in catering for future demands

    Clearly, Quinn is treading carefully with the bishops, and he’s also sending out a signal that the money might not be there to do a root-and-branch job, but at least it’s a sign of progress.  If his performance here is anything to go by, Quinn has already stated his position on clerical control of schools in fairly bald terms, even accusing officials in the department of being members of secret societies determined to frustrate reform.

    We’ll wait and see.

    An advisory group will hear the views put forward in the forum and advise the minister on future policy.  Its members are Dr. John Coolahan, Professor Emeritus at NUI Maynooth, Dr. Caroline Hussey, former Registrar and Deputy President, UCD and Fionnuala Kilfeather, former Chief Executive of the National Parents Council – Primary.

    These are the participating bodies in the forum, and submissions will also be invited from the public.

    An Foras Pátrúnachta

    Catholic Primary Schools Management Association

    Church of Ireland Board of Education

    Association of Trustees of Catholic Schools

    Educate Together

    Gaelscoileanna Teoranta

    Irish Catholic Bishops Conference

    Irish National Teachers Organisation

    Irish Primary Principals’ Network

    Irish Vocational Education Association

    Islamic Foundation of Ireland

    National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education

    National Parents Council – Primary


    Other posts on school patronage


    Catholic Schools – The Empire Fights Back

    It didn’t take the Catholic bishops long to recover from their brief flirtation with reality, did it?

    After a worrying period during which they acknowledged that their organisation was full of abusers and that they had covered up hundreds of crimes, the boys are all back on message.

    The bishops are singing from the same hymn-sheet.

    First, we have former bishop  O’Mahony trying to undermine the Murphy report by talking out of two orifices simultaneously: his arse and the side of his mouth.

    The good bishop, who was forced to resign following publication of the damning report that exposed the Catholic cover up of multiple child-rapes, is now seeking to cast doubt on its author.

    According to the Irish Catholic, O’Mahony complained that Archbishop Martin did nothing to counteract the statement of the Murphy Report, widely circulated in the media that ”the majority of clergy knew and did nothing”.

    Think about that now.  He wanted the Archbishop to deny what the Commission was saying, and prevent it from exposing the criminal inactivity of the Catholic hierarchy.

    Addressing Diarmuid Martin, he says You were out of the diocese for 31 years and had no idea how traumatic it was for those of us who had to deal with allegations without protocols or guidelines or experience in the matter of child sexual abuse.

    Read that again:   Without protocols, or guidelines or experience.

    O’Mahony seems to be unaware that raping children was a crime and that the correct protocol was to call the police.  Likewise, his claim that he had no experience of child sexual abuse is hypocritical nonsense.  He and his fellow bishops then and now, have claimed to have no experience of adult sexual relations.  And yet at the same time that the priests under their command were raping children, these fine bishops had little difficulty instructing grown men and women how to conduct their sex lives, and even less difficulty instructing the politicians on what laws to pass about matters such as contraception.

    Meanwhile, Leo O’Reilly, bishop of Kilmore writes in the Irish Times that the phrase “control of the primary school system” in the paper’s recent survey,  is emotive and misleading.

    It’s emotive, Leo says, because it elicits a sceptical reaction from the respondent, as nobody wishes to be controlled.

    Now, I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that when a bishop can order the sacking of a teacher for holding unacceptable beliefs, or for living with a partner while unmarried, that looks a lot like control.

    When a priest can prevent a child in his school from getting the publicly-funded bus service, that looks very like control.

    When Catholic teachers are afraid to reveal the nature of their marital arrangements for fear of losing their jobs, that seems like control.

    What do you reckon?

    All primary schools are managed in a spirit of partnership by boards of management, Leo says.

    Leo lies.  Leo lies to you.  He lies to me.  He lies to anyone reading his article.

    Perhaps Leo even lies to himself.

    The schools are controlled with an iron fist by the bishop’s proxy, the parish priest.  All decisions are made by the proxy and no dissent is tolerated.

    Leo thinks he and his colleagues have arrived at a new dawn for Catholic education.  Cardinal Seán Brady will announce the Catholic Schools Partnership, the goals of which are :

    (a) To provide a unified voice for Catholic education in the public forum and with educational bodies and the Government.

    (b) To support Catholic educators in the core activities of learning and teaching in order to foster high-quality life-long learning and faith development for all learners.

    (c) To support the roles of governance, trusteeship and management.

    Read that again, but this time put on your special X-ray glasses that can see through solid bullshit.

    Get rid of all the fancy, self-serving, pompous waffle like core activities of learning and teaching and you can boil it down to one simple statement:

    We’re here and we’re staying.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Time to kick ’em out of the schools.


    Should Bishops Remain as Patrons of Our Schools?

    This is a post from a new contributor, Mairéad, who normally writes here.


    I have been a primary teacher for 28 years, so I think that I am qualified to write about this one.

    I have heard many commentators in the media calling for the church to cease their involvement in our schools and hospitals, especially since the publication of the Ryan Report and the Murphy Report.

    Some people are saying that Bishops and priests only have titular roles now in our schools. These people are inferring that the church has no power and therefore, can do no harm, so should be left in situ.

    In my experience, Bishops and priests do not have merely titular roles in our schools. Let me explain, and then you can tell me what you think.


    * The local Catholic Bishop is the Patron of the vast majority of our primary schools.

    * The Education Act (1998) made the role of the Patron a legal one, with rights and responsibilities enshrined in law.

    * No principal can be appointed to a school, without the Patron sanctioning the appointment.

    * No teacher can be appointed to a school, without the Patron sanctioning the appointment.

    * The Bishop determines the ethos of the school, and is allowed by law to discriminate against certain teachers. For example, he is allowed to withhold sanction for an appointment if the teacher does not belong to the right religion, or happens to be gay / lesbian / bisexual.

    * The Patron has the power to remove someone from the Board of Management, or indeed to dissolve the entire Board of Management.

    * The Bishop sends out Religion inspectors (now called “diocesan advisors”) every single year to every single Primary school in Ireland. This, despite the fact that teachers are not even paid to teach religion.


    * Until very recently, the local priest was the “Manager” of the local school, and answered to nobody at all. Many still act as if there has been no change.

    * Nowadays, there are eight members of the Board of Management, but in reality the priest is still “the boss” in the vast majority of schools.

    * I have met many, many priests in my years of teaching, and most of them have not been competent to “run” schools, but every single one of them has been the boss.

    * Usually the priest is the Chairperson of the Board, and is the person with whom the Department of Education corresponds. This is a huge piece of power. Some priests I have known said they have written to the Department e.g. for funds, but they have not. In one case, children were left traipsing in the mud to outdoor toilets for nine unnecessary years, because the priest had refused to ask the Department for funding, but claimed that he had done so.

    * The chairperson of the Board (the priest) is also the chairperson of any panel to appoint a principal or teacher. There are three usually on the selection board – the priest, the principal and an outside party taken from a list. That list, however, is compiled by the diocesan office and the priest gets to choose whoever he likes from it! In effect, then, the priest has two out of three votes, because that “outside” person is paid a fee, and will not be chosen again if they don’t play the game.

    *Teachers must get a reference from their local PP and enclose it with any application for a teaching job. That reference had better say that the teacher is a regular mass-goer, or they might as well save the stamp. Did you know that?

    * The priest makes sure that religion is taught in the schools, but doesn’t teach it himself.

    * The priest insists that children are prepared for three sacraments (Reconciliation (confession), Eucharist (communion) and Confirmation) in the primary school – 2nd class and 5th / 6th class – but does not teach himself.

    * 2nd class is almost completely taken over by two sacraments. If you’re not a Catholic, you miss out on weeks and weeks and weeks of your education.

    * 5th / 6th class is the same, only maybe a bit worse, because the Bishop comes to this sacrament, so the priest wants to impress him – without doing any of the work. Again, non-Catholics are sitting there losing out on their education. Let’s face it; the Catholics are losing out on their education too!

    * In other countries, including Catholic countries, religion is taught after school, so there is no loss of education, and people can choose to opt out if they wish. Not so in Ireland. In Ireland, parents have an entitlement to withdraw their children from the religion class, but as already outlined, they’d have to be at home for most of 2nd and 5th / 6th classes! In addition, many parents work, so they can’t be up and down to the school to remove their children during the religion class. Plus there is nowhere for children to go in the school, and no-one free to supervise them if there was, so these children have to sit in the classroom, absorbing the religion that their parents do not want. Worst of all, the Bishop / priests insist that religion is taught at 12 noon every day. If it were scheduled as the last lesson of the day, then the children could be collected early, but no! It is made as difficult as possible.

    * Some priests go in to schools and ask the children to put up their hand if they were at mass that Sunday. Did you know that?

    * Priests gather their altar servers for daily mass from the primary school, especially rural schools. Did you know that? So those children miss more of their education, not to mention what might happen to them in the church and walking unsupervised to and from the church.

    * Priests often go into schools to hear the children’s confessions.  Did you know that? One to one, on their own. Did you know that? Without parental permission.  Did you know that?

    This is merely a taste of the role of Bishops and priests in our primary schools.

    So, what do you think?

    Should Bishops remain as Patrons of our schools?

    Should priests remain as Chairpersons of our Boards of Management?

    Should priests and Bishops choose our teachers and our principal teachers?

    Should teachers be regular mass goers only?

    Should teachers be heterosexuals only?


    Why Do Clergy Control Schools and Hospitals in Ireland?

    If you were building a power station would you give it to the Franciscans?

    Of course not.  Why would you?  The Franciscans know nothing about running a power station.  They’re priests.

    If you were setting up an oil refinery, would you give it to the Dominicans?  You certainly would not.  These guys only know how to run Inquisitions.  They’d kill us all.

    Would you put Augustinians in charge of the space shuttle?  The Poor Clares in charge of water supplies?  The Capuchins in charge of airports?

    If you were constructing a motorway, would you entrust its design to the  Presentation Sisters?  If you were setting up a railway, would you give control of it to the Christian Brothers?

    No, no, no and no.  No, you would not.

    And yet bishops still have control over most of our primary schools, and many of our secondary schools, though the State pays the entire cost of operating those schools.

    Here we are, building a new national children’s hospital, entirely funded with tax money, and the plan of this government is to hand control of it to the Sisters of Mercy.

    This has to be stopped. If the Catholic church are once more to gain control of our State resources, after all that has been revealed about them, we might as well shut the country down and emigrate.