Church's role in primary schools


Madam, – Yet again those who prefer a secular education are trying to force their preferences on others. I chose a Church of Ireland education for my children, but I wouldn’t dream of telling those of other faiths or none that they must do the same. I object strongly to being told by those who do not choose a faith-based education, that no one should make a different choice from them.

Where I live there is a choice of several primary schools, Catholic, Protestant, Gaelscoileanna and Educate Together. Surely choice is a good thing? I realise that all areas may not have the same variety of choice, but why not seek to increase choice in those areas, rather than denying it to others?

This debate reminds me of the recent debate over the Angelus. Just because some don’t like it, they think no one should be allowed to listen to it! Freedom and choice are precious. When making your own choice, don’t seek to deny others the right to make a different one. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Madam, – In my letter (January 28th), I wrote, “the Ryan and Murphy reports are being presented, mistakenly, as standing in judgment on the behaviour of every Catholic and particularly of priests and religious.”James Scully-Lane’s letter (February 1st), illustrates this claim perfectly.

He writes that he would be happy to retain the services of people on school boards as long as the schools were not under “the aegis of an organisation [the Catholic Church] which has actively facilitated the molestation of generations of children” (my italics).

The Murphy commission found that, “clerical child sexual abuse was covered up by the Archdiocese of Dublin and other church authorities over much of the period covered by the commission’s remit.”(1.113). This is truly shocking, but there is a world of a difference between “covering up” these crimes and “actively facilitating” them.

In recent years the Catholic Church has put an enormous amount of time, energy and money into devising child protection policies and putting structures in place to protect children in schools and parishes. This is seldom mentioned. I wonder why? – Yours,etc,


Dalgan Park,


Co Meath.

Madam, – Fintan O’Toole’s article  advocating that a derogation be given to agnostics in primary schools from teaching religion is badly thought out (Opinion, February 2nd).

It is absurd to argue that the personal whims or prejudices or belief systems of the primary school teacher should determine the curriculum they teach.

Atheism is as much a belief system as any faith, and agnosticism is as much an epistemological stance as any other.

Why should the fact that the pupil happens  to be taught by a teacher with either of these outlooks retard their faith formation? Would the suggestion be treated seriously if it was made about, for example, history?  What if a Holocaust denier (with the whole attendant conspiratorial historical outlook) wanted a derogation from teaching history?    – Yours, etc,


Castleknock Vale,

Laurel Lodge,


Dublin 15.

Madam, – An obvious omission has emerged in much of the correspondence concerning the role of the churches in education – that is parental choice. The emphasis of Article 42 of the Constitution is not of any particular type of patronage, but rather of parents being best placed to make educational choices for their children, and the role of the State in supporting those choices insofar as possible.

There is no doubt that the State has failed in supporting that choice. This is evident from the recent poll carried out by your newspaper. However, assuming the accuracy of your poll, there remains a sizeable number of citizens who desire that their children should attend a school with a religious ethos. It would therefore seem obvious that the best way of upholding the values of our Constitution is for the State to engage with the various actors in our education system to ensure that choice is now offered. This seems the path the Government is now tentatively stepping towards.

Zero-sum arguments on both sides – either in support of the maintenance of an inequitable status quo, or in support of a system which goes in the reverse and replaces one marginalised section of our society with another are neither helpful nor desirable.

It is interesting to note that many of the successful western democracies which we are often told we should be emulating, such as Canada, the Netherlands and Australia provide public funding to schools of both religious and secular ethos.   There is space in our society for choice. –   Yours, etc,


Glenavy Park,


Dublin 6W.