Possible transfer of patronage for eight Catholic schools agreed in pilot project

Bishops and department favour reconfiguration process as project met with local resistance

A pilot arrangement involving the possible transfer of patronage for eight Catholic schools to other managements has been agreed. Photograph: iStock

A pilot arrangement involving the possible transfer of patronage for eight Catholic schools to other managements has been agreed between the Catholic bishops and the Department of Education. The pilot areas are in Arklow, Athlone, Cork, Dublin, Dundalk, Galway, Limerick and Youghal.

In Nenagh, Co Tipperary, however, the transfer of patronage from a Catholic school to the local education and training board has been agreed.

A spokesperson for the department said the Catholic Bishops’ Council for Education and relevant bishops “confirmed their willingness to engage and co-operate fully with the department in seeking to facilitate a more diverse school patronage in these towns and cities”.

It was agreed “that work will commence on a number of towns and areas of cities that have no multi-denominational provision at present as part of a pilot arrangement”, the spokesperson said.


The department has been engaging for some time with representatives of the Bishops’ Council for Education on divesting Catholic school management to allow parents greater choice away from the current situation where 93 per cent of primary schools are under Catholic control.

A Schools Reconfiguration process is aimed at assisting in achieving the Programme for Government commitment to have at least 400 multi-denominational schools by 2030 through transference of existing schools from Church management to multi-denominational control in response to the wishes of local families. The process involves the transfer of patronage of active schools.

The Catholic bishops representatives have consistently expressed their willingness to engage with this reconfiguration process, also favoured by the department, but it has met considerable local resistance in instances.

In 2012 the report of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector recommended there be a significant increase in diversity of primary schools' management in Ireland. However, to date, just three such schools in the State have been transferred from Catholic management.

The spring 2022 general meeting of Ireland’s Catholic bishops is taking place in Maynooth from Monday to Wednesday of this week and the issue of divestment will be discussed there. It is also expected to be addressed in the press statement from the bishops at the conclusion of the meeting on Wednesday evening.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times