Talks on Catholic school patronage next week

 

JOINT COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION:A MEETING between the Department of Education and the Catholic hierarchy to discuss the divesting of patronage of Catholic-run schools in Dublin is to take place next week, a Dáil committee was told yesterday.

Frank Wyse, assistant secretary general at the department, said representatives from the department would be meeting a delegation including Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and Bishop Leo O’Reilly of Kilmore next week.

Speaking to the Joint Committee on Education and Science, Mr Wyse said the department had written to Dr Martin following a speech in which he said the church would be willing to withdraw its patronage from some Dublin schools. It has asked the archbishop to identify schools that might be suitable for divesting.

“We will meet the hierarchy next week to discuss the issues,” Mr Wyse said. They would have to explore what was involved in such a process, how the transfers might take place and under what conditions, he added.

“We feel as it has been raised by members of the hierarchy we need to find out how they would envisage the process moving into reality.”

The committee was also told that of 78 projects due to commence construction in 2009, only seven had reached practical construction. A further 31 were at tender stage and 14 had submitted draft documents. Capital expenditure to the end of October was €368 million, almost €112 million less than had been anticipated for the schools programme.

There had been delays related to a new form of public works contract now being used by the department, Mr Wyse said, which had a “significant cumulative effect on anticipated expenditure”. However, the time taken to prepare documentation should reduce over the coming months, he said.