Tuesday 24 October 2017

Archbishop will work with minister as part of plans to hand over Catholic primary schools

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin Photo: Steve Humphreys
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin Photo: Steve Humphreys
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin says he will work with Education Minister Richard Bruton on the latest plans for the handover of Catholic primary schools to other patron bodies.

Dr Martin said he would be "willing to co-operate on pilot projects" to explore how the idea would work in reality.

Earlier this week, Mr Bruton announced moves to revitalise the process to divest some of the 90pc of primary schools under the control of the Catholic Church, in order to offer parents more choice.

The minister is suggesting ground-up talks in areas where demand for change is identified, with a view to leasing an existing school property from the church if agreement is reached on transfer to a new patron.

Speaking on RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show,  Dr Martin admitted that the previous divestment process, initiated under former Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, was “far too slow”, and said there was for a nee d for a different approach

He said while “you can have all these ideas at an intellectual level”, there was need too get into the community and see how it  could work.

Archbishop Martin said the approach taken in the consultation with parents under the original divestment process, “was wrong” and   “the right information” had not been gathered.

“I am hoping the minister will get it right. He should be asking community what they really want,” said Dr Martin, who supports the plan to survey parents of pre-school children, rather than parent of existing pupils.

“If I consult with parents in a school, they are the wrong people, I should be talking to parents of children aged 2-3,” he said.

Dr Martin also referred to the emerging option of community national schools which, in many cases, will be rivalling the more familiar Educate Together school model, to take over patronage of Catholic schools.

He said he thought the community national schools model offered “a solution”.

Community national schools  differ from Educate Together in that they offer formal religious  instruction – to all faiths – during the school day, while Educate Together provide a general education about religions.

Dr Martin said it wasn’t only about pupils adding: ”I don’t think a teacher should be obliged to teach a religion if they don’t believe.”

He also reiterated his views that parents should not be baptising their children purely for the purpose of school entry and he said there was a need for “more rigorous standards for everyone coming for baptism.”

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