Saturday 19 August 2017

'Shocking' and 'disgusting' - viewers react strongly to Would You Believe episode on Catholic primary schools

Journalist Mick Peelo
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

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.

Nuns in the classroom, 1968
Nuns in the classroom, 1968

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.

 

However, others felt the programme had an anti-Catholic bias although the Irish bishops had been invited to participate in the programme but declined.

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