Religious orders and public school lands

 

Sir, – The remaining land attached to Our Lady’s Grove primary and secondary schools in Goatstown, Dublin 14, is for sale with bids due by March 29th. As parents in the primary school, we are writing to highlight the serious impact of this and similar developments on our schools and in public schools generally. More specifically in this case, we would like to send a plea to the owners, the Order of Jesus and Mary, to reconsider or request that the Department of Education purchase the land for the schools’ use.

Since 2005, the order has been selling off the available land surrounding the schools and has legitimately built a retirement home for members of the order. However, the latest developments have had severe consequences for the schools.

The primary school already has so little recreational space that children are required for safety reasons to take turns running in the yard at breaktime.

The secondary school is one of the few public girls schools in the area but will have the poorest of sports facilities compared with the many well-endowed private schools for girls locally.

The Montessori school that has been located on the grounds for 20 years has been forced to relocate and the future of the afterschool care is also in question due to this sale.

In a time where questions are being asked about the separation of church and state in the education system, how can it still be possible that a religious order is permitted to sell off the lands of public schools?

Parents in the schools are mobilising to object to future planning applications by any new developers.

However, there is surely a strong case for the State to step in and issue a compulsory purchase order for this land and allow the public schools to develop their facilities. This would show State intent to take responsibility for school infrastructure and promote a public education system not relegated to second place behind the private schools. – Yours, etc,

LISA RYAN,

LAURENT MUZELLEC,

Windy Arbour,

Dublin 14.