Subsidising private schools

 

A chara, – While John McManus’s opinion piece “Subsidising private schools makes sense – sort of” softens its tone by admitting there is little justification for the State to provide €90 million in annual subsidies, his essential argument is that this transfer of wealth is “a little reward to the middle classes for accepting a very progressive tax system” (Opinion & Analysis, July 31st).

However, he points out himself that it is the top 10 per cent of Irish households who typically send their children to such schools. Are these people really middle class? Does he also believe that if this subsidy were not in place that the top 10 per cent would not accept our progressive tax system? Would there be demonstrations on the streets akin to the anti-water charges protests? Would the top 10 per cent flee Ireland and move to the UK or Switzerland where the cost of private education is several times higher?

The Irish Times editorial on this same subject (July 31st) blurs the picture by arguing that State schools should receive more funding to match other OECD countries. It is a valid point, but a very separate argument. As John McManus points out himself, 0.2 per cent of the Department of Education’s budget would be a small price to pay for advancing social equality and equality of opportunity. – Is mise,

GERARD MOORE,

Sandymount,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – In his comments of fee-paying schools, John McManus points out the several Fine Gael Ministers in the current Government attended such schools.

One “Independent” Minister attended one of England’s most prestigious public schools, but at least his education was not subsidised by the British taxpayer.

When Ruairí Quinn suggested reducing the taxpayer subsidies to such schools during the economic crisis, the suggestion was described as “nasty” by Andrew McDowell, then adviser to Enda Kenny, and was opposed by Fine Gael’s then-ministers who had no problem in severely reducing the number of special needs assistants in primary schools.

John McManus does not mention that three of the most radical TDs, who never cease to deplore inequality – Paul Murphy, Richard Boyd Barrett and Eoin Ó Broin – also attended fee-paying schools, as did Mary Lou McDonald.

I have never heard any of them suggest that the taxpayer cease paying the salaries of teachers in such schools.

On an RTÉ radio programme, I heard Mr Ó Broin praise the fine religious education he received in Blackrock College, which may have surprised some of those who voted for him on the basis of his aggressively secular agenda. – Yours, etc,

SEAN BYRNE,

Dublin 13.