Hand over primary school network to State, says Gilmore


THE PRIMARY school network should be handed over to State ownership, according to Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, who said there are 3,200 such schools but the State owns fewer than 100.

He said the most important lesson from the Ryan commission report is “accountability and this must be at the heart of any future reforms. No institution is above the law. Every institution must be examined, inspected and held to account for what it does”. And “because we are now paying for them we the people are entitled to reform our health, education and welfare systems to meet our current needs, rather than the demands of those who founded them so may years ago”.

Mr Gilmore said: “We should begin by transferring the physical infrastructure of our publicly-funded schools and hospitals into the ownership of the State.

“The process should begin – as suggested by my colleague deputy Ruairí Quinn – with the transfer to State ownership of the primary school network. There are 3,200 primary schools in the State but less than 100 are actually owned by the State. The rest are owned by religious denominations and many of them are owned by the religious orders indicted in the Ryan report.” Mr Gilmore said “the systemic abuse, neglect and cruelty perpetrated against generations of children in church-run State institutions is a stain on the conscience of our nation”.

He said “no sum of money can ever adequately compensate the survivors for what was done to them. We cannot give them back their stolen childhoods. But we can honour them, their bravery, and their legacy by ensuring that we will never, ever be silent about the needs of vulnerable children again. . . We are less likely nowadays to accept claims of the Catholic Church to an exclusive right to make provision in areas of health, education and welfare, just as the church is far less likely to make them”.

But he said we have not yet come to terms with the alternative, “the demands we impose on the State, when we insist that the State itself must make provision for people in need.

“What are we doing today to meet the needs of children at risk?” Mr Gilmore said there “may not be the images of institutionalised abuse in massive, bleak buildings to confront this generation when we look back at what we are doing today. But there will be many individual stories of children suffering abuse, and of a State that turned its back on them.”