Archdeacon banned from taking part in services over comments on school-admissions row

C of I archbishop’s move comes after Edgar Swann warned Greystones, Co Wicklow, community being ‘torn apart’ by controversy

Enrolment policies at St Patrick’s National School, Church Road, Greystones, have stirred controversy locally. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Enrolment policies at St Patrick’s National School, Church Road, Greystones, have stirred controversy locally. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A retired Church of Ireland archdeacon has been barred from taking part in church services by the Archbishop of Dublin for six months after speaking out over a school admissions row.

Archdeacon Edgar Swann warned earlier this year that the Church of Ireland community was being “torn apart” due to controversy over school enrolment policies at a school in Greystones, Co Wicklow, which prioritised children who regularly attend church services.

His intervention followed the resignation of a long-serving principal, Eileen Jackson, at St Patrick’s National School in protest over its “parish engagement” enrolment policy.

The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, recently wrote to Archdeacon Edgar Swann to say he was removing his permission to officiate at church services until next Easter.

It is understood that the letter stated he was taking this step because of the retired archdeacon’s decision to speak out about Canon David Mungavin, who chairs the school’s board of management.

A spokeswoman for the Archbishop said he was not willing to engage in discussion of sensitive issues in the national media.

Archdeacon Swann declined to comment, except to say: “It is in legal hands and I will not comment until the Archbishop has had a chance to respond.”

The 76-year-old member of the clergy has regularly led church services in the diocese and was due to lead a number of services in the area during the Christmas period.

‘Silent no longer’

The development is considered by church observers to be highly unusual and appears to have reopened a row which has split much of the school and church community.

In a letter written to the Archbishop earlier this year, Archdeacon Swann said the enrolment controversy was bringing the church into “public ridicule” and called for the school board to be dissolved.

“I have no wish to interfere in the internal matters of my old parish and school, but I find I can be silent no longer,” he wrote.

“The matter is damaging the school, which has lost excellent teachers, and it is causing a serious crisis in the parish,” he stated.

Parents at the school overwhelmingly backed a no confidence vote in its board of management earlier this year.

At the time the Archbishop acknowledged that while St Patrick’s was facing challenging times, there was no evidence that the board was “dysfunctional”.

“There will be many occasions where disagreements arise between board members and within school communities. However, disagreements in and of themselves are not evidence that a board of management is dysfunctional,” he said.

Archdeacon Swann was a former rector in Greystones and served as chair of St Patrick’s National School’s board of management.

During his time, he is credited by many in the community for promoting inter-faith dialogue and pioneered joint religious celebrations with the local Catholic church.

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