SCHOOL ETHOS

 

Sir, - Mr Tom Troy, chairman, Public Policy Institute of Ireland (letters, March 27th) appears to be labouring under a misapprehension, albeit a common one. He seems to be concerned that schools, if leased by the Government, will degenerate into being of non denominational ethos, by virtue of the size and the different minority groups that he envisages to be inevitable.

It may come as a surprise to Mr Troy to learn that under the terms of our Constitution it is not possible to have a nondenominational school under the aegis of the Department of Education.

But it is definitely a surprise that somebody in his position should confuse the terms "non denominational" and "multi denominational" - I confess to having little knowledge of non denominational schooling, but multi denominational schooling is very simply the according of equal status to all the world's major belief systems, and the guarantee that all children in the school will be treated equally in the matter of religious belief. Hardly the stuff of dread and resentment as intimated by Mr Troy.

Alas, he is one of a large minority of people for whom multi denominational (i.e., equality for all) schooling is anathema. Witness the debacle here in Westport where great enthusiasm was shown for a Gaelscoil (an all Irish national primary school) to be set up and yet, down the road a little, when a majority of parents voted for a multi denominational ethos in the school we had the extraordinary scenario of people publicly declaring they were going to withdraw their children from the register, so doing and, to boot, proceeding to set up a rival, Catholic ethos school. The result being, of course, that the Department refused to sanction either school, an outcome unfavourable to the Irish language, the democratically minded, the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, and the spirit of hospitality and friendship we are quixotically renowned for. A year later and we still have the same situation, with no softening of the fear of equality that still lurks amongst a (fortunately declining) minority of our population.

Yours, etc.,

Cloona,

Westport,

Co Mayo.