Archbishop defends Catholic schools


THE DESIRE for specifically Catholic education may be less than it was in the past but that did not make it a thing of the past, the Archbishop of Dublin said yesterday.

Speaking at the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools convention in Wexford, Dr Diarmuid Martin said criticism about the lack of a pluralist educational system in Ireland was valid, but was not a criticism of Catholic education. “It is a criticism of the inadequacy of government policy,” he said. He again welcomed the launch of the National Forum on Patronage in Primary Education, established by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, and said it would address that criticism.

Catholic schools had been rooted in the local community, were detached from narrow political interest and had fostered fruitful co-operation between community, teachers and families, he said. “These are values not to be easily brushed aside.” He said there were dangers in making changes too quickly.

Meanwhile, Mr Quinn said teachers, school managers and others in the education sector still had to appreciate the gravity of Ireland’s financial crisis. He said the days when the sector used the Easter conferences to demand more resources from a minister were over.

He told a school managers meeting in Kerry yesterday: “We are in a different space and context. I am concerned that the reality of our reliance on EU-IMF funding has not been fully grasped.”

On school patronage, Ferdia Kelly, joint managerial board general secretary, pointed out how schools in the Catholic voluntary sector were founded on an ethos of educational excellence for all and had been extraordinarily inclusive of students of other faiths, those experiencing disadvantage and students with special needs.

Also yesterday, Mr Quinn promised reform to prevent some people from of manipulating their income to get third-level grants. On Newstalk’s Breakfastshow “Until now there has been a bias towards the self-employed and the agricultural community who were able to quite frankly manipulate their income in a manner in which they could, or their children could, avail of grants.”