The Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin, has praised the contribution of the Christian Brothers to Irish education, saying they had given tremendous service.

She was speaking after the Brothers confirmed that they would be handing over their 29 primary schools and 109 secondary schools to a charitable trust run by lay people.

The Edmund Rice Schools Trust will have responsibility for the schools, while the Christian Brothers will continue to provide backup advice to schools through an education office.

Minister Hanafin said she was anxious that the Christian Brothers schools continue to have the same ethos and that the quality of the education continued.

She added that the department will be working with the trustees to ensure this.

Meanwhile, parents have said they are looking forward to taking part in the consultation process on shaping the future of the schools.

A spokesperson for the National Parents Council described it as a time of great change for education.

He said the Christian Brothers had done some fantastic work over the years, although he acknowledged that much hurt had also been caused by members of their congregation.