Church rules out forced change in patronage

Wednesday 06 April 2011 17.18
School - Education Minister wants to see more non- and multi-denominational schools
School - Education Minister wants to see more non- and multi-denominational schools

A group which represents all Catholic schools here has said there is no question that any Catholic schools will be forced to change patronage against their will.

Launching a position paper today, the Catholic Schools Partnership said the church was consulting privately with schools in some areas.

It said it wanted to stress that any change would only come about after consultation and agreement in school communities.

The group also indicated that the church may be prepared to drop what has been a core demand; that any new school that replaces a Catholic one will guarantee Catholic children the right to prepare for Communion and Confirmation during the school day.

The Chairman of the CSP, Fr Michael Drumm, said it would be up to the patron of any new school to determine what the Religious Education programme would be.

However, he added that the issue of who that alternative patron would be was a matter that would have to be negotiated.

Welcoming the forum established by the Minister for Education to develop a process for divesting schools, Fr Drumm said any process would be a ground up one, with local communities having the final say.

The Catholic Church has said it will hold four regional assemblies in June to analyse the results of consultations it is carrying out on the future of Catholic schools.

The Catholic Church has said it will hold four regional assemblies in June to analyse the results of consultations it is carrying out on the future of Catholic schools.

The CSP’s position paper runs to 6,500 words, but says very little on the divesting of Catholic schools.

It says it would be helpful if some pilot projects were undertaken.

It says where existing Catholic schools are amalgamated due to falling pupil numbers, the Catholic patron might make any buildings that are surplus to requirements available for another school.

However, it warns that in any such transfer local communities will, understandably it says, raise the issue of finance.

A national forum to examine how to divest some of the country's Catholic primary schools is due to begin its work shortly. The issue of money and church buildings is bound to feature.

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn has welcomed the position paper and consultation process.

He said that the paper was a very positive contribution to what is shaping up to be a very engaging discussion.

He said he looked forward to developing this important debate in the weeks and months ahead.

'I believe today's statement by the Catholic Schools Partnership will contribute to providing a platform for what I see is an essential and informative debate within the education agenda,' said Mr Quinn.

Emma O Kelly looks at moves to change the Catholic dominance of the Irish school system