The Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise has said he welcomes a discussion on the issue of the future alignment of the nation's schools.

But Dr Colm O'Reilly said it would be a great shame if the extraordinary contribution that the Church made for a long time were forgotten.

He said a discussion has been going on for some time as to how Church and State continue to relate to the benefit of people and that was understandable and timely.

Dr O'Reilly said he did not think that what happened in Ferns or any one place essentially changed that.

Earlier, the CEO of the National Parents Council - Primary said parents are not being offered a choice in how they want their children educated.

Fionnuala Kilfeather said the council believed in the right of parental choice as set out in the constitution. She also said there had been many changes in Irish society over the last several decades.

Her comments follow last night's remarks by the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, in which he said the Catholic Church's role in managing primary schools was indispensable.

However, Fr Dan O'Connell of the Catholic Primary Schools Association said that studies show that the majority of people are satisfied that the Church should manage schools.

Tánaiste supporting O'Donnell

The Tánaiste, Mary Harney, has said she strongly supports many of the sentiments expressed by the Progressive Democrat TD, Liz O'Donnell, who called for an end to the special relationship between the Catholic Church and the State. 

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland programme, Ms Harney said she shared Ms O'Donnell's views that the Ferns Inquiry was a litany of abuse of young children.