COI bishops clash with Govt over education policy

Friday 10 May 2013 23.51
The Dept of Education's new minimum number of pupils required to justify retaining a two-teacher national school like Gartan National School was challenged by the bishops
The Dept of Education's new minimum number of pupils required to justify retaining a two-teacher national school like Gartan National School was challenged by the bishops

Two Church of Ireland bishops have clashed with the Government over education policy at their General Synod.

Cork’s Bishop Right Reverend Paul Colton has accused the coalition of blackmailing his Church’s only teacher training college in the Republic into consolidating with another third level institution.

Meanwhile, Tuam’s Bishop Right Reverend Dr Patrick Rooke accused the coalition of unintentionally undermining guarantees given to religious minorities by the founders of the independent Irish State.

Bishop Rooke challenged Education Minister Ruairi Quinn’s increase - from 12 to 20 - in the minimum number of pupils required to justify retaining a two-teacher national school.

He said it is unfair as it disproportionately effects minority communities, particularly in rural areas.

Dr Rooke told the Synod this entailed a degree of "unintended....Protestant cleansing" that undermines guarantees the State’s founders gave to religious minorities.

Meanwhile, Bishop Colton accused the coalition of blackmailing his Church’s only teacher training college in the Republic into consolidating with a university.

Last October, the Government ordered all the Republic’s smaller third level institutions to consolidate with larger colleges or face a withdrawal of public funding.

Church sources say the State gave the governors of the Church of Ireland College of Education until mid-November to chose their partner.

Bishop Colton told the Synod the fear of losing all its funding was used as a lever to get the Rathmines-based college to enter detailed consolidation discussions with Dublin City University.