This is about giving five-year-olds the right to attend their local school
Published 01/12/2015 | 02:30
Is there more than one way to crack a nut?
Particularly one that has proven as hard, in some areas at least, as offering parents the choice of enrolling their child into the nearest school, without religious strings attached?
Why should such a simple idea as allowing a five-year-old to attend the nearest school cause such problems?
Some 80pc of schools can accommodate all-comers, but the other 20pc - a not inconsiderable 800 - are oversubscribed and selection criteria are used.
With 90pc of Irish primary schools run by the Catholic Church - although a far lower proportion of the population practises this, or any, religion - the overwhelming qualification for admission in oversubscribed schools is having a child baptised in the Catholic faith.
Legislation allows denominational schools to so discriminate on the grounds of protecting their ethos - a right guaranteed in the constitution.
There are stories of non-practising parents who have their children baptised merely to get a place in a particular school.
And there are stories of parents who don't subscribe to "baptism of convenience" and have to drive past the local school every day to bring their children elsewhere.
It is almost five years since previous education minister Ruairi Quinn set in train a process that he hoped would open up choice, with a plan to divest, say, one Catholic school, in an area where there might be six or more, to a different patron.
That has been one hard nut. Progress has been lamentably slow - not least because, when it comes to it, parents are reluctant to give up their school.
The idea emerging from his Labour Party colleagues now is for a change in the legislation, which, they suggest, would respect competing constitutional rights of parents with regard to school choice and of churches with regard to protecting ethos.
It's a different nut, but it could prove just as hard to crack.