The Archbishop of Dublin has said the only way to have schools with a clear Catholic identity is if there are alternative schools available.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Seán O'Rourke, Dr Diarmuid Martin said if the Church fought for Catholic schools then they should have a clear Catholic identity, and it was only possible to do that if there are alternatives.

Archbishop Martin said he was not saying he wanted to go back to a rigid form of "Catholics only" in schools.

He said there were citizens in Ireland who did not wish their children to go to a school with a Catholic ethos, and they had fundamental rights to have that.

He said the difficulty was in the interim period when we were talking about change but change had not taken place.

Archbishop Martin said very often the reasons the change was not taking place were not about religion, but were about local issues.

He said there was a danger that all the discussion about ethos could be a smoke screen to avoid looking at the other challenges facing education.

He said more and more people used the term pluralism, to go to a school where there was no pluralism, where there are no travellers, there are no educationally disadvantaged pupils.

Archbishop Martin said we had to look at a new way in which our schools could be integrated.