Facsimile of Stanley letter of 1831 setting out parameters for establishment of National School system in Ireland

These three pages comprise a facsimile of the letter (October 1831) from Chief Secretary (Ireland), Edward Stanley, to the Duke of Leinster (senior Irish peer) to appoint him President of the Commissioners of National Education under instructions from the imperial government.

The Stanley Letter sets out the precepts for the National School system.

[Public Record Office of Ireland: State Paper Office, 1984]

p. 2


The Changing Nature of Marriage in Ireland

John Colgan (on Twitter @ColganJohn and Facebook) has compiled some interesting data about the changing nature of marriage in Ireland from Census 2016 and other databases via the Central Statistics Office.

Table #1. Roman Catholic Marriages as a % of All (Province by year)

2014 2015 2016 2017 Trend
As a % of Natl.Total 59.3 56.7 56.3 52.3 -2.3% per annum
Leinster 50.5 47.1 45.8 42.4 -2.7% per annum
Munster 57.9 65.5 65.2 61 -2.3% pa, last 2 yr.
Connacht 71.2 70.3 71.1 68.3 -1.0% per annum
Ulster (Part) 65.2 64.2 66.5 63.3 -1.9% total

Table #2. Secular Marriages by Province by Year -Nos & % Share of Total

2014 2015 2016 2017 Trend
National Total Nos. 7881 8242 7990 8589
35.70% 37.4 37 40.4 +1.6% per annum
Leinster 4864 5078 5070 5350
43.70% 45.5 46.4 49.7 +2% per annum
Munster 1714 1876 1818 2057
28.60% 30.7 30.1 34.4 +1.9% per annum
Connacht 701 742 650 777
25.80% 25.6 23.4 26.5 +0.2% per annum
Ulster (Pt.) 526 546 452 481
26.40% 28.7 24.6 26.7 +0.1% per annum


Table #3. Same Gender Marriages by Solemniser & County-2017

Same Gender marriages celebrated in each county and city during 2017 classified by form of ceremony            
Form of ceremony
Province, county or city Civil marriages The Humanist Association The Spiritualist Union of Ireland Other religious denominations Total
TOTAL 527 111 76 45 759
LEINSTER 369 74 55 22 520
Carlow 6 1 7
Dublin City 258 27 4 7 296
South Dublin 1 2 1 4
Fingal 10 3 5 18
Dun Laoghaire Rathdown 6 4 4 1 15
Kildare 17 9 5 3 34
Kilkenny 7 1 3 1 12
Laois 1 3 2 1 7
Longford 2 2
Louth 13 5 1 19
Meath 6 11 17 4 38
Offaly 2 2
Westmeath 5 3 2 10
Wexford 14 2 6 22
Wicklow 21 7 4 2 34
MUNSTER 79 29 12 9 129
Clare 3 2 2 2 9
Cork City 29 2 2 1 34
Cork County 7 11 1 2 21
Kerry 10 4 1 3 18
Limerick City 12 2 14
Limerick County 1 1
North Tipperary 3 1 1 5
South Tipperary 5 1 6
Waterford City 7 2 3 12
Waterford County 3 3 2 1 9
CONNACHT 57 2 3 13 75
Galway City 8 1 1 6 16
Galway County 24 1 5 30
Leitrim 2 2
Mayo 8 1 9
Roscommon 4 2 6
Sligo 11 1 12
ULSTER (part of) 22 6 6 1 35
Cavan 2 3 2 1 8
Donegal 20 1 2 23
Monaghan 2 2 4
Border 48 11 7 2 68
Midland 10 3 5 3 21
West 44 2 3 12 61
Dublin 275 36 14 8 333
Mid-East 44 27 26 9 106
Mid-West 18 6 3 2 29
South-East 42 9 14 3 68
South-West 46 17 4 6 73

In 2017 the proportion of all marriages solemnised outside a church context but registered in the State was 40.4% of the total. This has huge implications for the government’s National School divestment policy, which is proceeding at a glacial pace and won’t be sufficient to meet the latent demand for more secular classrooms right across the land, in just a few years time.

So far Minister Bruton has only managed to create 12 Community National Schools (CNS) during his term in office.

Once the 8,000, or so, secular couples (2017) start producing children eligible for Junior Infants admission (from 2021 onwards), the demand for their child’s Constitutional right under Article 44.2.4 not to receive religious instruction will only become more pressing.

This is the demographic time-bomb ticking away.

Faith Formation in National School Classrooms

Letter to Editor of The Irish Times from Paddy Monahan: 9 January 2018

Sir, – In your otherwise excellent editorial on the “baptism barrier” (January 5th), you state “many schools are flexible and inclusive”.

Some 96 per cent of taxpayer-funded primary schools in Ireland have a religious ethos and, as father to a three-year-old boy who happens to be unbaptised I have to ask, where are these flexible and inclusive schools? I have searched pretty hard and have yet to come across one (outside the 2 per cent of schools in the State run by Educate Together).

The Constitution sets out “the right of any child to attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction at that school”. Around 90 per cent of our primary schools are run by the Catholic Church, and in virtually all of them children not of the Catholic religion are sent to the back of the class for 30 minutes of mindless busy work every day while the rest of the class receives faith formation. This segregates and stigmatises children as “other” on a daily basis throughout their childhood while also breaching a clear constitutional right as such children absorb every word of the lesson being taught – not exactly inclusiveness. Catholic patrons appear deaf to the simple and expedient solution of moving faith-formation lessons outside the school day.

If, when it stated many schools “are flexible and inclusive”, the editorial meant “will enrol children of any religious background”, then I am afraid this is simply factually wrong. Almost every school in this country prioritises four-year-old and five-year-old children in enrolment on the basis of their religion.

We must be wary of mistaking an undersubscribed school that is obliged by law to take any child, but will rigidly apply its discriminatory enrolment policy as soon as it is fully subscribed, for a school that does not have such a policy in the first place. The mere existence of a discriminatory enrolment policy at the local school places years of stress and anxiety on parents of children of no religion or of a minority faith as to whether they will be lucky enough to get a place when the time comes. It also, of course, encourages baptisms of convenience; Catholic parents are safe in the knowledge that their children will always be in the top enrolment category.

To be clear, in my experience Catholic primary schools are neither flexible nor inclusive. If there is an example of a Catholic school anywhere in the country that does not operate a Catholics first enrolment policy and does not segregate children on the basis of religion, I’d love to hear of it. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.

Dick Spicer and son, Norman, withdraw legal action against State over move of NMH to SVUH campus

In a short statement issued last night Dick Spicer and son, Norman, point out there may be some issues of governance still to be resolved re the NMH and Vincents but our legal case has achieved all it could within the parameters of the Constitution, and these are substantial gains indeed.

The grounds on which our claim was drafted were the constitutional clauses dealing with endowment of religion and protection of the family.

The Sisters in removing themselves from involvement have brought matter into compliance with the ban on endowment, and the removal of canon law restrictions on medical practice in both hospitals has removed that conflict with the medical rights of the family.
Both of our grounds for legal action  therefore no longer exist, the aims of the action having been achieved we are happy not to have to proceed further.
Funds raised (a little over €1,000) have covered our costs to date and any left over after settlement will, as stated, be shortly donated to the Children’s Hospital. Thanks to all.
Dick & Norman

Public protest only reason nuns won’t own maternity hospital

This piece is from Colette Browne in today’s Irish Independent.

“The decision by the Order of the Sisters of Charity to relinquish control of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) is a victory for protesters – and an indictment of the Government.

Health Minister Simon Harris yesterday dubbed the decision by the order to cut ties to the hospital group …..”

No mention of the legal challenge against the State mounted by Dick Spicer and his son, Norman.


Statement from The Religious Sisters of Charity on its divestment from governance of St. Vincent’s Hospital Health Group


It looks as if the timely intervention by Dick Spicer and his son Norman crystallised thinking about a resolution to the medical ethics issue over the weekend.

A sensible outcome and a noble act by the Sisters of Charity.



Labour’s School Admissions Bill to combat religious exclusion

The Labour Party intends to introduce a Bill in the Oireachtas to combat religious exclusion on admission by means of a religious test (baptismal certificate).

“There is a clear tension between provisions in the Constitution that impact on schools admission policy. On the one hand, the Constitution makes it clear that the State is entitled to fund denominational schools and that those schools are entitled to provide religious instruction during the school day.

On the other hand, the Constitution requires that legislation on State aid for schools must not prejudice the right of any child to attend a State-funded school without attending religious instruction at that school.

As Mister Justice Donal Barrington described it in the Supreme Court, if a school accepts public funds then any child, no matter what his or her religion, is entitled to attend it and has the right not to attend any course of religious instruction at the school”.


The Bill is available here: http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/bills/2016/4816/b4816d.pdf

Roisin Ingle on Question 12 in Census 2016

Roisin Ingle writes about getting ready to fill in her family’s Census 2016 form in last Saturday’s Irish Times (23 April).

She shares our view that the religion questions must be reformed before we conduct the next census.

“It’s unfortunate that yet again the religion question is not about religious practice. A question about practice would provide a useful barometer of Irish society in 2016.

Instead the question is “What is your religion?”

When faced with this question many will still tick the Roman Catholic box because they associate culturally with that belief system. Not because they go to mass every week, or confession on a regular basis or because saying the rosary is a vital part of their lives. Cultural Catholics will tick the box because it’s the system they were born in to and the system many still use to commemorate important life rituals around marriage, birth and death.

The box will be ticked because when they read Question 12 they don’t really have to think. For many people who grew up in this country, when asked “What is your religion?” Roman Catholic would seem like the obvious, perhaps the only, answer”.

“The question, for many, doesn’t require pause for thought. But “What religion do you practice?” That’s a whole other question. That is one that makes people reflect and consider their own religious practice and that of their children. It’s a question that keeps us honest”.