Quinn pledges to be 'new broom' as education chief
NEW Education Minister Ruairi Quinn yesterday vowed to change the way things are done in the department he previously lambasted for being secretive and protective of the Catholic Church.
While in opposition, Mr Quinn suggested department officials could be "members of secret societies, such as the Knights of St Columbanus and Opus Dei, and have taken it upon themselves to protect the interests of these clerical orders".
He also described many department officials as either "Catholic right wing" or being "incompetent, lazy and destructive".
Some of his most trenchant criticism of the department related to its handling of the Ryan Report on institutional child abuse and the frustration of trying to get information in the Dail on properties owned by the religious congregations involved.
But Mr Quinn yesterday said he would be "a new broom" in the department.
He added: "In time, I will be giving guidance on how questions can be factually answered."
Mr Quinn was speaking at the annual conference of the Catholic Primary School Managers Association (CPSMA) in his first official engagement as Education Minister.
Getting straight down to business, he announced a Forum on Patronage and Pluralism to decide how to transfer some of the 92pc of primary schools under Catholic control to other patrons to create greater diversity and choice.
Mr Quinn wants the forum, to which parents and other interested parties will be invited to debate the issue, to complete its work within nine months to allow for changes next year.
"We have to provide for an array of choice in our education system and ensure that different forms of patronage reflect the diversity of our modern society and the choices of parents," he said.
The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, has been pushing for church schools to be handed over to others to provide choice, where it is deemed necessary.
Mr Quinn's ministerial predecessors ignored requests from the Irish National Teachers Organisation to set up a forum, reflecting, it has been suggested, more conservative views in rural Ireland about reducing the number of Catholic schools.
Welcoming the forum, Bishop Leo O'Reilly said the church authorities were in a process of consultation on the matter.