High praise for Archbishop Martin on backing Protestant education rights


THERE WAS applause and much praise for the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Most Rev Diarmuid Martin, at the Church of Ireland Dublin Glendalough diocesan synods in Dundrum last night.

The warm remarks followed comments Archbishop Martin made on RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland yesterday, where he supported the stance of the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Most Rev John Neill, and other members of that church in support of Protestant education in this State.

Responding at the synods last night, Archbishop Neill spoke of his “great debt of gratitude to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin for his remarks today”. The comment was met with shouts of “hear, hear” and loud applause from delegates.

While giving an address during the education debate, the acting principal of Kings Hospital School in Dublin, Glascott Symes, remarked “what a noble, generous and courageous statement by Archbishop Martin this morning. He deserves the grateful thanks of this synod and of the Church of Ireland in general.”

He continued: “Dublin is blessed to have two church leaders of that quality at the same time.”

On Morning Ireland, Archbishop Martin said pluralism in Ireland would suffer without Protestant communities and their schools. He said: “I believe there is a public interest in guaranteeing the right of the Protestant community to education,” and that “without the Protestant communities and without their schools I believe Ireland today, or pluralism in Ireland, would be poorer”.

Speaking later yesterday, Fine Gael education spokesman Brian Hayes said Archbishop 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”. He appealed 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”.

The Labour Party spokesman on education, Ruairí 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 that he was “doing irreparable damage to the relations between the State and the Protestant community in this country”.

Also yesterday, the Catholic Iona Institute issued a statement backing calls for a reversal of cutbacks concerning Protestant schools. Dr John Murray said “the Iona Institute supports the principle of parental choice. The education cutbacks aimed specifically at Protestant schools threaten the existence of those schools. Therefore the cutbacks are an attack on parental choice and an attack on a very long established part of the education sector.”

The cutbacks saved just € 3 million “but their effect on Protestant schools is massively disproportionate”, he said.