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FG TDs attack O'Sullivan for criticism over school baptism


Jan O'Sullivan

Jan O'Sullivan

Jan O'Sullivan

Labour Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan has come under fire from Fine Gael TDs for insisting no-one should be forced to baptise their child to get them into a particular school.

Fine Gael TDs rounded on Ms O'Sullivan for broaching the divisive subject of school patronage so close to a general election.

And she was criticised for not doing enough to ensure parents are not forced to baptise their children to secure school places.

Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday, Ms O'Sullivan said she would like to see the education system changed so church schools could not pick and choose children based on their faith.

Ms O'Sullivan was hitting back at Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who defended the rights of Catholic run schools to give preference to baptised children.

"I don't think anyone should feel forced to baptise their children, if it is not something that they want. And I don't think the church want that either she said," the minister said.

However, Fine Gael Junior Minister and Tipperary TD Tom Hayes said the Coalition should focus on selling the message of a stable economy rather than drift into debates on contentious issues.

"We need to focus on the economy and job creation in the run-up to the election instead of coming up with ideas that are going to ruffle feathers in parts of the Government," Mr Hayes said.

Cork North West TD Aine Collins said she understood the problems facing families trying to get school place but also said now is not the time to have the debate.

"From an election point of view, now is not the time to have a debate you can't win because you are not going to make everyone happy by doing it," she said.

Dublin North TD Alan Farrell said it was not an issue faced by the vast majority of his constituents.

"The problem with enrolment in my constituency relates to bricks and mortar not the signs hanging over the door," Mr Farrell said. However, Fine Gael TD for Dublin Bay South Eoghan Murphy said he had been urging the minister to address the issue for almost a year.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said there was a need to "refocus" the Government's efforts in divesting school patronage.

Renua leader Lucinda Creighton called for more diversity in school choices. "I know of examples where parents are having to leave jobs because of the absence of nearby schools with an ethos they support," she said.

"We have to give priority to kids from the local areas going to State funded schools," he added.

A Department of Education spokesman said the minister could not introduce changes as the laws governing religious ethos are under the Department of Justice.

A Department of Justice spokesman said the laws in place are there to reflect the "Constitutional provision of the protection of religious freedom".

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