Cuts to protestant schools criticised

 

Pluralism in Ireland would suffer without Protestant communities and their schools the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin has said.

Responding to remarks made by the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Dr John Neill, accusing the department of education of a determined and doctrinaire attack against Protestant schools, Dr Martin said “I believe there is a public interest in guaranteeing the right of the Protestant community to education”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland,Dr Martin said “without the Protestant communities and without their schools I believe Ireland today, or pluralism in Ireland would be poorer and I hope some way can be found to guarantee that that tradition can continue”.

Under a deal done in the 1960s with then minister for education Donogh O’Malley, Protestant fee-paying schools received the same funding and teacher numbers as non fee-paying schools, protecting their ethos as the minority tradition in the State.

But the extra funding and teacher numbers were cut in the last budget and Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe said his actions were in keeping with the advice of the Attorney General under article 44 of the Constitution, that “to continue the grant that was available would be unconstitutional because it was being given to the Protestant denomination and being refused to the Catholic denomination”.

Fine Gael education spokesman Brian Hayes TD today said Dr Martin “has shown good authority and a commitment to pluralism in education by the support he has given to the Protestant schools of this country”.

“I am appealing to the Minister for Education to back down on this issue and to stop the inevitable collision course that he has set for himself between his Department and the various Protestant churches,” he added.

Labour Party spokesman on education and science Ruairi Quinn accused the Minister of undermining the constitutional right of Protestant families to send their children to a school that caters for their faith, adding he “is doing irreparable damage to the relations between the State and the Protestant community in this country”.