Eva Panicker age four, and her father Roopesh Panicker seeking to draw attention to what they call Ireland’s ‘educational apartheid’.
Eva was refused entry to her local national school because she is not Christian. Mr Panicker and his wife Najamol Kalangara say they were repeatedly told the school was entitled to give preference to Catholic children.
“Irish law allows state-funded schools to turn away children and discriminate in enrolment on the basis of religion. Section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act 2000 states that schools operated by religious institutions can favour children of their own denomination in enrolment – despite the fact they are entirely funded by taxpayers. In Ireland, about 90% of primary schools are controlled by the Catholic church (most of the remainder are under the patronage of other religious institutions), so this can fairly and accurately be called the “Catholics first” law – though in my experience most Catholics, including my close friends and relatives, consider it repugnant….”
Instead of starting school last month, Reuben Murphy found himself back in his Dublin nursery for another year as his mother, Nikki, re-embarked on her quest to find a place at a local state primary for her four-year-old son.
She has already applied to 15 schools. But, following rejections from nine last year, Murphy is far from confident that a place will be found for Reuben. In a country where more than 90% of state schools are run by the Catholic church, unbaptised children like him are at the bottom of their admissions lists.
In Ireland 89% of primary schools are run by the Catholic Church.
Eighty nine per cent.
A new church-commissioned report called Catholic Primary Schools in a Changing Ireland acknowledges some parents have “little or no choice but to send their child to a Catholic school”.
The document states the church recognises the right of parents to opt out of religious instruction for their children.
But adds: “the manner in which schools do this is subject to available resources”.
The report says schools should not exceed the 2.5 hours allowed weekly for religious education. It says schools should make clear to parents upon enrolment what being a Catholic school means. They should include information on the school’s religious education programme as well as procedures in dealing with parents who do not want their children to participate in religious education.
However, the document does not advise schools as to what procedures should be put in place, apart from outlining options they “may” wish to implement.
They included The Augustinians; The Passionists: The Sacred Hearts Fathers of Jesus and Mary; The Discalced Carmelites (OCD); The Franciscan Friars; The Franciscan Brothers; The Servites; The Marist Fathers and The Dominican Sisters
The inspection process revealed:
* Poor record management in many cases making an assessment of practice difficult.
* Opportunities to safeguard children were missed, known abusers allowed to remain in ministry in 1990s.
* Variable delays in reporting allegations to the civil authorities up until 2009 (introduction of Safeguarding Children, Standards and Guidance) for most Orders and Congregations, however for some practice did not improve until 2013.
Teresa Devlin, CEO of NBSCCCI sez:
“In relation to the large reviews, I’m disappointed that, for the majority of Orders, the whole area of safeguarding is only being bedded down in the last couple of years,” said . “Of the 9 only two Orders have demonstrated good compliance with the standards, and have demonstrated their commitment to putting in place good safeguards for children as well as prompt responses to allegations of abuse. For the other 7 there is considerable work to be done. “A series of recommendations have been made within each report and the Board expects that these will be acted upon…We will request an update on their progress in implementing those recommendations in 9 months.”
Archbishop of Armagh, Catholic Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin
You can keep us out of this.
“Over the past year or so, in my role as chair of the Council for Communications of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, I have heard a variety of views on the relationship between the Church and the media in Ireland. These views were garnered from professionals working inside and outside of Church structures, and they ranged from the negative to the optimistic.
In my view it is now time for us to build afresh mutual respect and trust between the Church and the media in Ireland, not in any fawning or deferential manner, but in recognition of the fact that we share similar goals – to seek out the truth, to highlight injustice. In many ways we have a common mission – vocation even – to interact with society and the world in order to promote truth, ask hard questions, multiply goodness, enhance beauty and to serve the common good.
I recognise that coverage of the child abuse scandals in the Church has fundamentally shifted our relationship with the media. We are a long way from the 31 December 1961 when my predecessor Cardinal D’Alton broadcast a live message of blessing and goodwill from Armagh to the newly established RTÉ television station. It is true that we in the Church have sometimes reacted defensively or in denial to legitimate criticism in the media – it is also true that some commentators, particularly on social media, seem at times to have lost the ability to objectively question a story, running instead with their consensus caricature of the Church.
Most now accept that “the media” has played a vitally important role in Ireland and around the world, in lifting the lid on a terrible and shameful chapter of our history; giving a voice to those who for years had been carrying a lonely trauma. Media attention of these issues has accelerated the development and implementation of best practice in safeguarding, both in the Church and throughout society.
There is, of course, a legitimate interest in reporting bad as well as good news about the Church. What Radharc [long-running RTÉ Catholic documentary strand] did so well, however, was to present the beautiful, edifying and spiritually-inspiring lives of people of faith in ways which reflected the beauty and goodness of God. I believe that today, when so many people are tempted to despair, we need to rediscover the Radharc vision and lift people up, giving them, as Saint Peter put it, “a reason for the hope that lies within us.” With so much conflict, hatred and division in the world, it would do all our hearts good to witness the commitment of people of faith to peace and justice, to love and understanding.”
Germany’s largest media company [Weltbild], sells books, DVDs, music and more — and also happens to belong 100% to the Catholic Church. Few people knew about this connection until this month when Buchreport, a German industry newsletter, reported that the Catholic company also sells porn.
“The petition you featured a couple of days ago on your site has nearly reached 15,000 signatures. If there is anyone who missed it can you share it again so we can try and reach 50,000 signatures.. Thank you.”
You may have been struck by the ‘strangely muted’ reaction to the Tuam Babies story in the Irish media since new revelations emerged in the Connacht Tribune the Irish Mail on Sunday.
Gwen Boyle writes:
796 tiny bodies, squashed into a septic tank. Bones upon bones; the bones of 1960s babies mingling with the bones of 1950s, 40s, 30s, 20s babies in untold layers of misery, layers of starvation, layers of neglect.
The horror of the discovery, or rather re-discovery, of the mass grave at the old site of the Bon Secours mother and baby home in Tuam, Co. Galway last week caused no more than a flinch for some, an involuntary turning away.
On the day that the tireless work of local historian Catherine Corless and her colleagues became known to the wider world, RTE News devoted their time to the story of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s honeymoon in Cork. In an age of instant information and desperate press oneupmanship, it is impossible that the revelations in Tuam escaped their notice. It is also unlikely that a conspiracy was afoot at the state broadcaster to keep this unfortunate story quiet.
The most likely reason for RTE’s inexplicable blindness, along with that of many other major news outlets, is much more prosaic and much more terrifying.
It was ignored because it wasn’t a story. It wasn’t news. It no longer surprises us that these things have happened.
Almost 800 babies shoved into a septic tank, uncared for, unmarked, unremembered? Of course they were. What else would you expect from the organisation that presided over the rape of thousands of children, the forced adoption of thousands more, untold years of slave labour, and the incarceration, brutalisation and shaming of women?
The story, which is gaining traction days later as news outlets recognise their terrible oversight, has garnered little more than a shrug from the established press, barely a mumble from the State, and a defensive, sidestepping statement from representatives of the Catholic church.
What can explain this reluctance to report, to engage, to imagine?
Certainly, no-one wants to imagine it.
We would prefer not to think about those women, removed from their homes and families, giving birth under the gaze of disapproving nuns, watching their babies starve, or die from a preventable disease, or disappear one day into a car to be sold to a new family. We would prefer not to think of disabled babies slowly dying in lonely, shabby rooms. We would prefer not to think about exactly how those babies’ bodies ended up in the septic tank. We would prefer not to think of the symbolism of that tank, of what those babies meant to the people who were meant to care for their tiny souls. We would prefer not to, but perhaps we should.
That said, Irish people now outstrip their official mouthpieces. Many of us don’t share this reluctance. Given the opportunity, we react. In floods of outrage on social media, in the comments section of online news, in conversations on the street, in letters to the paper, people freely speak of things that we would prefer not to think about, but that it would be worse to forget.
With anger and disgust, people condemn the actions of a church that claimed to love and a state that claimed to care. The story goes global, but at home, fringe media and even satirical news sites provide coverage more hard-hitting than anything in the Irish Times. The attitude of ordinary people on this island toward the Catholic church has changed swiftly in the wake of scandal after scandal, while traditional media and government spokespeople still struggle against decades of ingrained deference and outdated modes of public engagement.
This week, Pope Francis, seeming concerned about the world’s chronic underpopulation, lamented the fact that some married couples choose not to have children. He accused these couples of selfishly preferring their holidays and dogs to the propagation of loyal young Catholics.
These future children, we can be assured, would be cherished. The children of marriage. The children of devout followers. Not the children of unwed mothers, the children of other religions and none, the unbaptised, the unwanted. Times have changed since these children were left to die of neglect and disposed of in septic tanks, but they are still not the right kind of children for the church to cherish.
The church that still reaches deeply into Irish lives and psyches is not the church of Jesus Christ, a man who by all accounts simply wanted people to care for one another without reservation or prejudice. It is an organisation that thrives on power, that runs on secrecy, that entangles itself in the lives and deaths of its followers.
However, revelations about babies in septic tanks, now matter how slowly they filter into the mainstream, are unforgettable once lodged in the public imagination. Ireland has changed, and continues to change, while the press and government struggle to keep up with the outrage of the people.
Some members of government suggest a memorial might be in order. The Archbishop of Dublin thinks that the matter is possibly worthy of a social history project. What neither of them wants is an excavation.
Why? Because an excavation means bones. Bones that will be brought to light, touched, examined, photographed. Bones that will reach the front pages of papers and the corners of the internet. Thousands of tiny, fragile bones, permanently engraved in the minds of Irish people everywhere.