Church of Ireland tells Government of concerns at policy on schools

Centenary commemorations should be sensitive to all traditions, say delegates


The threat of cutbacks to schools and the importance of ensuring that 1913-1922 centenary commemorations be sensitive to all traditions on the island were among issues raised by a Church of Ireland delegation at a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other members of the Government.

It was the first such meeting between the Church of Ireland and this Government. Led by Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson, the delegation spoke of its concern at Government policy on small schools and the forthcoming value for money report. They emphasised that if the suggested figure of 86 pupils was used as a baseline to define a small school, 120 (60 per cent) of Protestant primary schools would be affected.

They underlined the importance of the Protestant block grant to Church of Ireland secondary school students and their parents.

The delegation thanked the Taoiseach for the interest he has taken in Northern Ireland and in particular for his participation in the special commemoration services in Enniskillen last year.

They raised the issue of suicide in rural areas and discussed implications of proposed changes to the EU single farm payment scheme.They also spoke of their concern at the efficiency of the home help provision and called for an inquiry into Bethany Home.

The meeting on Friday was part of a process provided for under the Lisbon Treaty, which committed EU institutions to open, transparent and regular dialogue with churches, the different faiths, philosophical and non-confessional organisations.

As well as the Taoiseach, it was attended by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald and senior officials from the Departments of Health and Justice. Also on the Church of Ireland delegation was Bishop of Clogher John McDowell, Dean of Clogher Kenneth Hall, Canon Eithne Lynch, Rev Robin Bantry White, Sam Harper, Eithne Harkness and Dr Ken Fennelly.