Sunday 20 October 2019

'No divestment without support'

Cllr Brian McDonagh (Lab)
Cllr Brian McDonagh (Lab)

The local authority is to write to the Minister of Education requesting that changes in patronage structures of national schools in Portmarnock not take place 'without the support of parents and the school community.'

The letter follows instruction to the Archdiocese from the Department of Education and Skills to select one school from the Malahide/Portmarnock/Kinsealy areas for divestment.

Cllr Brian McDonagh (LAB), speaking at a recent meeting of the Howth/Malahide Area Committee, said that when he put forward the motion, he 'did not realise' the matter would be the focus of such media attention.

The councillor said that changes to patronage in schools in Portmarnock should not be 'forced' without the support of parents and the local school community.

Cllr McDonagh said, however, that there was 'some acknowledgement' from the Catholic Church that it had 'too many' schools under its patronage, and that there was a requirement for parents to have 'other options.'

Some of the media coverage, he said, seemed to have been prompted by 'perhaps fears that have been sensationalised', and that some of the communications from schools had not been 'as well thought out' as it would have been hoped.

Cllr McDonagh said that, while some people had 'strong' views on the matter and others were 'not particularly concerned, reassurances were needed for teachers and parents, as well as adequate information and notice.

Cllr Jimmy Guerin (NP) said he believed a lot of the 'controversy' had been created in the media, adding that the 'reality' was that the wishes of parents would be met, a fact he said was acknowledged by the Department and the Archbishop's House.

A lot of comments made at meetings and by boards of management weren't 'helpful', he said, and were creating situations which 'don't even exist.'

Cllr Eoghan O'Brien (FF) raised concerns over the instructions from the Department, saying he was not sure if 'clarity' had been given as to what would transpire if all eight schools voted to remain under their current patronage.

Choice of schooling for children was 'crucial', he said, but there was 'a lot of concern' amongst parents who were voting to remain that a decision 'would be made anyway.'

Following the passing of the motion, a letter will now be sent to the Minister of Education, with the Area Committee to be informed of the Department's response.

Fingal Independent