Ireland is in the privileged position of having a primary school system that is second to none in many regards - academically, according to international studies - and in terms of social equality too.

Ask any small child "do you like school?" and "is muinteoir nice?" and the answer will invariably be a resounding "yes".

There are problems: Provision for children with disabilities has a long way to go for instance; and then there’s the issue of Catholic Church control.

More than 90% of State funded primary schools here have a Catholic ethos. This makes Ireland unique among developed countries.

It means that Catholic beliefs play a central role in the formation of the vast majority of Irish citizens.

The church authorities decide who gets to be a teacher, or a principal. Children are indoctrinated in the Catholic faith, and preparation for the sacraments of Communion and Confirmation occupies a substantial portion of school time during second and sixth class.

The growing number of children who are not Catholics are not given any meaningful alternative to all this.

Sitting at the back of the class remains the only option for most. This is damaging for children, and it breaches their human rights. Many parents choose to allow their children to go along with it simply because they don’t want them to feel excluded.

Both the State and the church agree that there are too many Catholic schools and that we need more diverse provision. This has been acknowledged now for years. But nothing much is happening to change that.

The last minister for education, Richard Bruton, decided that ‘live divestment’ of a small number of Catholic schools was the way to go.

He assigned the country’s education and training boards to oversee this process.

The parents of pre-school children were surveyed in a number of areas, including Dublin’s Portmarnock/Malahide/Kinsealy area.

There are ten schools in the area; eight Catholic, one Church of Ireland, and one multi-denominational. In terms of numbers attending, 97% of school places in the area are denominational. The multi-denominational school represents just 3%.

Preschool parents were asked were they satisfied with current provision, and if not, did they want multi-denominational education. The results have not been published but locally it’s being said that 26% of parents expressed a desire for multi-denominational.

And so the Archdiocese of Dublin is consulting with schools to see if one of their 8 schools might consider transferring out of Catholic patronage to become a multi-denominational school.

Meetings have already been held at some schools, organised by church authorities. More are taking place this week. But proper information is thin on the ground, and parents need and are entitled to that information.

Misinformation has been communicated to parents in letters and emails sent home.

They’ve been told that Christmas celebrations will no longer be allowed; St Patrick’s Day celebrations will, like the snakes, be banished; child safety could be compromised.

One school says pupils could lose a "sense of hope in times of loss and crisis".

Another warns that Irish terms like "dia dhuit", and "buiochas le dia" may no longer be permitted.

This last warning was contained in a letter sent to parents at Scoil an Duinnínigh, which stated that "in the Irish language the relationship between faith and culture is very marked".

The school appears to be saying that the Irish language is inextricably bound up in a Christian outlook.

The school also warns parents that the very name of the school might have to change, because the great Irish lexicoraphor, Pádraig O Duinnnin, who gives the school its name, was a priest.

On Twitter, multi-denominational school body Educate Together gave a succinct response to all this. "Nonsense", it said. Another multi-denominational provider, the State’s education and training boards, has a similar opinion.

Of course these multi-denominational schools celebrate Christmas, St Patricks, and St Bridget’s days. They also celebrate festivals like the Muslim and Hindu feasts of Eid and Diwali. These are all important landmarks, not just in the religious, but also in the cultural life of children and communities. And all good schools - and Ireland’s schools are good - know that real education is about far more than the three ‘R’s’.

Parents at the schools do have very real concerns and fears though. They love their local schools. They know and trust the teachers. They value the school for all the good things that happen there, for the security and stability it gives their children. Why would you put all that at risk, when you don’t know what the alternative might bring?

And they don’t know about the alternative. The schools have told them they must vote without knowing which of several multi-denominational providers might take the place of the Catholic Church, and without any real information as to the kind of education those alternatives would provide. Multi-denominational bodies such as Educate Together have not been invited to come and explain their models of education to parents, although some parents have asked the schools to invite them.

Parents in this north Dublin area have told RTÉ News that they are not being given the proper information they need, to make an informed choice.

Outside one of the schools this week, and speaking to other parents on the phone, the concerns expressed by most - both Catholic and non - do not centre on religion. They worry that their teachers might leave, because their employer would change and they might lose out. They worry that the school will no longer be at the centre of their community, that it might become less democratic.

These are grounded concerns, they need serious teasing out, but no one in authority is answering them.

Some parents have expressed the view the process has been set up in such a way that it will fail, that this is deliberate.

They fear that at the end of this process, the church - and the State - will shrug their shoulders and say: "We tried. We consulted. But parents don’t want change".

Their concerns are well founded. Church leaders have already said similar, in relation to other areas.

But it’s the State that is tasked with providing for education, and paying for it. Responsibility for change lies not with the church but with the State. Some parents are asking: where is the State in this process? The process has been designed by the Department of Education, but it is standing back now. Parents and others are asking: where is the State's leadership?