THE Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has hit out at Education Minister Ruairi Quinn after he claimed that primary schools should divert time spent teaching religion to core subject areas.
The Labour Minister has sparked fury after suggesting that schools should use time allocated for religion to focus on improving pupils' reading and maths.
The group described Mr Quinn's remarks as "unacceptable" and accused the Labour TD of attempting to devise educational policy "on the hoof".
The clergy said they believe Mr Quinn's stance could be perceived as an attempt to "undermine" religious schools.
"It seems at best a hapless effort to devise educational policy "on the hoof' and, at worst, an indication of an intention to undermine religious education in the vast majority of our schools," the organisation said.
"The Minister's comment will be widely interpreted as an effort to undermine religion and religious-run schools and may damage the negotiations, at present at an advanced stage, to provide a wider choice for parents.
"The Minister may be unhappy with the pace of change, and with the power of parents to influence decisions, but his unreflective comments could have the effect of placing a huge question-mark over the Minister's intentions."