June 26th, 1960


FROM THE ARCHIVES:During a debate about segregated education in the North, Nell McCafferty described her experiences of seeking a teaching job in Catholic schools in Derry. - JOE JOYCE

THE MAINTENANCE of the separate voluntary education system is defended on the grounds of protecting the religious training of the pupils. What religious training? Pupils are given on average one lesson per day in Religious Instruction, and anyone who has ever been a pupil or teacher at these classes knows the enthusiasm, dedication and skill with which the subject is taught.

Some standards are of course, maintained. Grammar school teachers who have received their degrees from Trinity College, Dublin (the “Protestant” University) are forbidden to teach RI in Roman Catholic schools in Derry – they have been exposed to the corruption of the infidel!

And University graduates are encouraged to take their diplomas in education at the Catholic training schools in Belfast, rather than at Queen’s, where they have already studied for their degree, presumably so they will learn to teach their subject the Catholic way.

These are all unwritten rules, of course, but those who have defied them – or, as is often the case, were innocently unaware of them, they being unwritten – have felt the subtle penalty for doing so. Those teachers who in the past have gone to the Bishop in rage and/or despair at not getting teaching posts in Derry are rebuffed by the classic excuse: “Why did you not come and see me?” Another unwritten rule.

It is practically impossible, because of the fear felt by teachers of losing their job, to give concrete examples. I can only quote my own case. I graduated B.A., English, French and Psychology from The Queen’s University, Belfast, and went on to spend one year in France as assistante D’anglais . . . While still in France, I applied to Thornhill College, Derry, for a post as French teacher. My application was refused and the post given to a graduate fresh from University who had not yet been to France.

The following year, 1967, I applied from Israel for a post in St. Brecan’s Intermediate School, Waterside. Application again unsuccessful. Monsignor O’Doherty, when questioned by a relative of mine on my unsuccessful application, wanted to know why I couldn’t stay in Derry like other people, and work there . . . although I had previously found it impossible to get employment at home. And what was I doing in Israel doing voluntary unpaid work for Jews, the Monsignor wanted to know.

Two years after receiving my degree, my parish priest pointed out to me that Psychology was a dangerous subject, and had I asked permission from the Church to study it? An unwritten rule again, which nobody had told me about, but the penalty must be paid for breaking it.

In the three years I was available for teaching in Derry, I managed to obtain a total of 16 weeks’ employment in Roman Catholic schools . . . But then I have not kissed the Bishop’s ring.