'Shocking' and 'disgusting' - viewers react strongly to Would You Believe episode on Catholic primary schools
Sunday night's Would You Believe? Special: Who Runs Our Schools?, prompted a strong reaction from viewers as it tackled the thorny issue of the Catholic Church running primary schools in Ireland.
At the end of a week which saw the ownership of the land for the new National Maternity Hospital being hotly debated, the RTE programme seemed to hit a nerve.
Reporter Mick Peelo investigated the issues surrounding the Catholic primary school system in an Ireland where 10 per cent of the population identifies as having no religion while 96 per cent of national schools have a religious ethos (90 per cent of those are Catholic).
As it stands many parents who want non-religious education for their children are forced to send them to a faith school and, under current law, schools can refuse access to children who are not of their faith.
In schools that are over subscribed some non-believing parents are baptising their children to overcome this 'baptism barrier' and secure a school place in their local area. Parents of children of other faiths also sometimes have no option but to send their children to Catholic schools.
The government is negotiating change with the Church to transfer some of its schools to other non-religious patrons. However, some Catholics feel that they are trying to fix a problem that often does not exist.
Speaking on the programme Professor Eamon Conway of Mary Immaculate College in Limerick said, "I see, open, honest and shall we say respectful debate that recognises and guarantees a valued place for faith based schools in this new landscape that they are seeking to construct... and greater recognition on the part of the State on what we are already doing to include people in faith schools. They are really trying to fix a problem that in many instances does not exist."
Many viewers felt strongly about the issue and drew parallels with the National Maternity Hospital situation.
Typical. Catholic Church gets special treatment in Community National School model. Disgusting #WouldYouBelieve— Eoin Kelleher (@eoinyk) May 7, 2017
'Education based on gospel values'...'non catholic children work on their own on their religion'..heartbreaking for parents #wouldyoubelieve— Anne Cronin (@AnneCronin5) May 7, 2017
#Wouldyoubelieve so happy my children attend an ed.togetherschool#unification not segregation— dee (@deedeesmall) May 7, 2017
Good programme #WouldYouBelieve Needed to be made. Again, rate of change for real equality in access to education moves at glacial pace— Eoin Kelleher (@eoinyk) May 7, 2017
Out of 3250 primary schools only 81 are under patronage of Educate Together. Shocking stat in 21st Century Ireland #WouldYouBelieve— Karen Twomey (@comm_hub) May 7, 2017
#WouldYouBelieve would you believe it? An "education" system based on stories that were written before we had science or real understanding.— annie (@anniehoc) May 7, 2017
An Irish solution to an Irish problem: State continues to give hospitals&schools to church to run +religious board goverors #WouldYouBelieve— Connie (@Connie_2017) May 7, 2017
However, others felt the programme had an anti-Catholic bias although the Irish bishops had been invited to participate in the programme but declined.