The leader-in-waiting of the Catholic Church in Ireland has said it is unfair that some schools are left to shoulder responsibility for the country's most socially deprived and educationally disadvantaged children.

Coadjutor Archbishop Éamon Martin, who will succeed Cardinal Seán Brady as Primate of All Ireland when the office becomes vacant, called for an examination of inequalities in the Irish educational system.

He told the Edmund Rice Schools Trustees yesterday that Catholic educators must continue to look out for those who are left behind or neglected in any way.

Speaking at West Belfast's Saint Mary's University College, he also urged them to examine the inequalities in the entire Irish Catholic system with "its widening gap between the highest and lowest achievers".

He said we need to ask why some post-primary schools are unfairly left to shoulder the responsibility for children from the most deprived backgrounds or for pupils with the greatest educational needs.

He said too many immigrant children in those same schools continue to struggle with literacy and language skills even after a considerable number of years here.

Archbishop Martin also said development education and Catholic social teaching ought to be compulsory subjects in all Catholic schools so that teachers and pupils can be aware of solidarity, fair distribution of the world's goods, and the impact of poverty on the dignity of the human person.