John Colgan has a Letter to Editor in today’s Irish Examiner about the ‘Rules for National Schools (1965)’.
The letter needs to be read in the context that these Rules are not a true statement of the current rules governing our National Schools as no codification has taken place since 1965.
The education minister’s mention of the “Rules for National Schools, 1965” as archaic on the cusp of a general election truly exemplifies the expression ‘kicking the can down the road’.
For while the rules have been in place for 50 years, they were, and remain, a detached, subversive piece of work, typical of the State’s biggest spending department, Education.
No act of parliament was made enabling them to extensively alter the preceding early 18th century legal arrangements.
They were never published as a statutory instrument under the Statutory Instruments Act, 1947, nor were they laid before the Oireachtas for the approval or amendment of the two Houses, which the 1947 Act required.
They were merely issued by the education minister of the day, Patrick Hillery. Parliament was sidelined by the department.
The back staircase in the department’s Marlborough St offices is called ‘Staighre na nEaspag’ — the bishops’ staircase — and clearly their hands are all over these rules.
Who else would put in the hands of a minister of a Republic words that religion is the most important subject in a school?
No minister and no secretary general has the competence to make such a judgment for society. Ever since, there’s been a slide away from the national school system as established in the 19th century. This system was approved by the then Catholic archbishops of Armagh and Dublin.
Then religious instruction and secular education were compartmentalised, allowing room for students of every faith and none to attend one school without being proselytised in the process.
Interweaving religion with secular subjects never had any place in the State’s vocational schools; no harm came of it.
The invention of the late 1980s, ‘religious ethos’ — which finds no mention in the Constitution — undermines pupils’ constitutional rights in publicly funded schools. The bishops have clout disproportionate to their negligible stake in our national schools.
The next governments needs to reclaim them.
Let us be a real republic for 2016.
Dublin Road Street