Monday 21 October 2019

Catholic schools could fall into wrong hands -- Quinn

MAEVE SHEEHAN

Labour TD Ruairi Quinn has claimed that Catholic schools could fall into the control of right wing Catholic fundamentalists unless they are taken into State ownership.

Mr Quinn, who last week questioned whether education officials were members of Opus Dei, said: "The real problem now is that they can't service the boards of management because of declining numbers. The people who take over the Catholic school infrastructure are going to be right wing Catholics like Libertas, Spuc and all these driven, hard-right, religiously extreme, lay members of the Church who will be utterly unaccountable to anybody."

He told the Sunday Independent that the Government should simply take control of the school infrastructure from religious orders, which have been forced to revisit their original €128m abuse deal with the Government because of the scale of child abuse released in the Ryan Report. The final bill is expected to be €1.4bn, with more than €400m of this amount potentially going on legal fees. The 18 orders are due to meet the Taoiseach this week with an inventory of their assets.

"We need to control the ownership of the education infrastructure to make it more efficient and coming down the tracks is the report of the Archdiocese," he said. "The question will have to be asked, is the Archdiocese of Dublin a suitable patron for primary schools?" asked Mr Quinn.

Mr Quinn said he had an "extraordinary" reaction to his sharp criticisms of education officials in the Dail last week. He said while he had no evidence of conspiracies to conceal information within the Department of Education, crucial information of public interest and relevant to the clergy was proving remarkably difficult to obtain.

He said his remarks were prompted by his frustrated attempts since February to get a list of schools in Ireland and their owners.

In the Dail, he referred to a "continuing culture of deferment and obedience to the Catholic Church" in the Department that has "continually frustrated getting answers to simple questions". He said officials were either members "of secret societies such as the Knights of St Columbanus and Opus Dei" or the minister "is politically incompetent and incapable of managing the Department of Education and Science".

The Regional Vicar for Opus Dei in Ireland, Monsignor Robert Bucciarelli, told the Sunday Independent: "Opus Dei has nothing to do with the matter of the Department of Education and the information about the ownership of Catholic schools."

Mr Quinn was also rebuked by Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe. He blamed "information technology" and "database inadequacies" for the inability to compile a list of schools and their owners. He said his officials are now working on it but questioned Mr Quinn's use of Dail privilege to "impugn the personal integrity and motivations of civil servants" in his Department.

However, a victim of the alleged sex abuser Donal Dunne has accused the Department of obstructing his case. Timothy O'Rourke was abused by Dunne, a serial sex abuser to whom Judge Ryan devoted a whole chapter.

Mr O'Rourke said: "The Department failed to keep records. There is splitting of files, with his employment file in one location in Athlone and my complaint surfacing elsewhere. His cards and appointment file are missing."

The Department also failed to reveal details of an earlier complaint about Dunne from a former student in Laois in the 1960s, which was revealed in the Ryan Report.

Judge Ryan said the Dunne case showed how a sexual predator could move through the educational system without fear of sanction.

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