Background: the areas and why they were chosen


THE REPORT published yesterday was the outcome of work undertaken by the Department of Education at the request of the Catholic Church to identify areas that may offer potential for the church to divest itself of patronage of certain primary schools.

The department began the research following a meeting between then minister for education Batt O’Keeffe and church representatives in November 2009.

The report, published yesterday by Tánaiste and Minister for Education Mary Coughlan, set out 10 areas – four in Dublin and six in other locations across Ireland – where demographics and existing school configuration indicated potential for the divesting of patronage.

The six locations outside Dublin were chosen from a list of 43 areas which met the following criteria:

Areas with a population greater than 5,000 and less than 20,000, as per the 2006 census, on the basis that this population level offers the most scope for diversity;

Areas which did not experience greater than 20 per cent growth in period between the 2002 and 2006 censuses and where the establishment of new schools is unlikely to emerge until at least 2016;

Areas that have at least three primary schools within a two-kilometre range of the town boundary;

Areas where school provision is predominantly Catholic or where there is very limited diversity of provision at present.

The six areas selected achieved a diocesan and geographic spread. Altogether, the 10 areas chosen were:

Arklow, Co Wicklow, in the Archdiocese of Dublin

Athlone, Co Westmeath, in the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise and Diocese of Elphin

Ballinasloe, Co Galway, in the Diocese of Clonfert and Archdiocese of Tuam

Birr, Co Offaly, in the Diocese of Killaloe

Killarney, Co Kerry, in the Diocese of Kerry

Tramore, Co Waterford, in the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore

Dublin 4, Dublin City, in the Archdiocese of Dublin

Dublin 6 and 8, Dublin City, in the Archdiocese of Dublin

Portmarnock/Malahide, Co Dublin, in the Archdiocese of Dublin

Whitehall, Dublin City, Archdiocese of Dublin.

For example Athlone currently has 15 primary schools within five kilometres of the CSO town boundary with a total enrolment of 2,762 pupils. None of the 15 schools in the area is multi-denominational and 14 have a Catholic ethos.

The decision for the church to divest patronage of individual schools ultimately rests with the bishop as patron and the Catholic community in the concerned parish and must follow consultation with parents and staff.

There are 3,165 primary schools in the State of which 2,888, or 91 per cent, are under Catholic patronage.