Letter to Editor today in Irish Examiner

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.

John Colgan

Dublin Road Street


Co Kildare


Ruth Coppinger, TD moves her private member’s Bill in Dail last night


Ruth Coppinger (Socialist Party, Dublin West)

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to end religious discrimination in admission to primary and post-primary educational establishments and to provide for full participation of pupils of all faiths and none in primary and post-primary educational establishments.

This is aimed at ending religious discrimination against children in our schools, treating all children equally, giving them equal access to our schools without the religion of their parents being a factor and, during the school day, affording children of all religions and none due consideration in the curriculum.

The first Part of the Bill aims to delete section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act 2000. Unfortunately, the Government refused to do this when given the opportunity last week despite the Labour Party’s commitment to parents that it would do so. The second Part amends several sections of the Education Act 1998 so that when children gain equal access to a school, they will not be unfairly subjected to indoctrination in one religion.

Section 7(3)(c) is unbelievably backwards, socially divisive and discriminatory legislation. It is past time for it to go, in recognition of the fact that we have a different type of society now. There are State-run, taxpayer-funded schools, buildings and teachers, yet the boards of management or school patrons are allowed to draft admission policies that are based on inequality. Of two parents who attended the Dáil last week, one was a Hindu living in south Dublin whose daughter has to travel 6 km to school. He had to apply to seven schools and was told by the archbishop that the only way around the situation would be to baptise his child. To tell a Hindu that was crass. Another parent’s son was turned down by eight schools and needed to stay back a year in order to find a school in the local area.

In Dublin, the problem is most acute where school places are few, forcing the Catholic Church to introduce a Catholic-first policy or the quotas that we have seen in operation in a number of schools in my constituency of Dublin West. Ludicrously, parents are driving miles from their local schools and criss-crossing with other parents on the same streets, which adds to traffic and causes other problems. They should be entitled to have their children attend their local schools.

Last week, there was considerable interest in and debate on this issue. Unfortunately, the Government chose to say “No.” It is rank hypocrisy to tell parents to wait until the next Government comes along. Flawed as the Constitution may be on questions of religion, there is nothing in it that obliges religious discrimination in schools.

The second Part of our Bill amends sections 9, 15 and 30 of the Education Act 1998, essentially moving schools in a secular direction and away from a role as centres for passing on faith. This is a recognition of a changing society. A growing number of people are no longer of the majority religion – that is, Catholic. There is more diversity, with people from different nationalities and backgrounds. Parents want to see their children attending schools with other children from their communities. We propose the removal of the phrase “the characteristic spirit of the school,” which obliges boards of management, the Minister and school managers to allow religion to pervade all teaching in schools. For example, maths must be taught in line with the school spirit. I have heard examples of a triangle being compared with the Holy Trinity. This is happening in our schools. The teaching of science must give due recognition to evolution and so on.

We need to remove the obligation on schools and allow children to be taught in an objective and pluralistic way. We also need to stop forcing school managers to ensure that religion forms part of the curriculum. That should be the choice of parents, with religion taught at the end of the school day.

We need to decouple boards of management from school patrons so the latter, which are generally of just one religious denomination, will not have undue control over the ethos of schools. We must ensure children are not compelled to attend classes in religious instruction. We have seen cases only in recent weeks where schools have been compelling pupils in this regard despite their constitutional right not have to have religious instruction. It is past time that we allowed children equal access to schools.

5:35 pm

Irish National Schools’ Trust presentation about true nature of our ‘National Schools’

The Irish National Schools’ Trust (INST) organisation has permitted us to reproduce its brief history of our ‘National School’ system on our web-site.

It comes as a Powerpoint presentation in two parts (PDF due to file size).IrishNationalSchoolsTrust-presenntation-#1 Irish National Schools’ Trust presentation#2

The full extent of the State’s involvement in concealment of the open-to-all origins of our schools is laid bare.