Meath school row needs national debate - Bruton

 

A primary school principal who could be sacked because he wants sacraments tuition to be outside normal school hours should not be removed until the dispute is resolved, former taoiseach Mr John Bruton has said.

Mr Bruton said the dispute at Gaelscoil Thúlach na nÓg in in his hometown of Dunboyne, Co Meath, raised a number of difficult questions about educational policy.

The dispute centres on principal Mr Tomás O Dualaing’s view that teaching of Roman Catholic doctrine should be done outside normal school hours. He says Protestant pupils must be removed from class during the time spent teaching, in particular, the sacraments, which leads to "segregation" in the classroom.

Many parents of children at the school support Mr O Dúlaing and say he is only trying uphold the rights of the minority. A number of parents protested outside the school today in support of the principal.

Mr Bruton said several issues were raised relating to the status of a school’s management relative to the principle; the status of teaching outside school hours; parents’ options if they are unhappy with arrangements at a school and other issues.

"These are extremely difficult questions to resolve, some of which are far beyond the capacity of local mediation or facilitation as suggested by the Minster [Dr Woods]," Mr Bruton said.

He said until the matter has been resolved through a broad process of consultation on a national level, Mr O Dúlaing should remain in place but that the existing arrangements for teaching should be maintained.

The Minister for Education, Mr Woods has said his Department cannot intervene directly as the school’s ethos is a matter for its patron body, An Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lan Ghaelilge.

The school’s board of management yesterday moved to sack Mr O Dúlaing, but a final decision rests with An Foras Pátrúnachta .