Ciaran Tierney writes;
Rush hour in Galway yesterday morning. Funny how the traffic gridlock just seems to ‘evaporate’ when the schools are closed …
Ciaran Tierney writes;
Rush hour in Galway yesterday morning. Funny how the traffic gridlock just seems to ‘evaporate’ when the schools are closed …
During Leaders’s Questions.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin raised what he called a “legacy issue which reflects all parties who’ve have been in Government over the last number of years” and that he wasn’t raising it as a mean to score political points.
The issue is how the State has dealt with child sex abuse in national schools in Ireland up to and since Louise O’Keeffe’s successful case in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2014.
Mr Martin said the State’s response to the ECHR judgement has been “a significant failure and leaves a lot to be desired”.
From Leaders’ Questions:
Micheál Martin: “The State that introduced an ex-gratia payment scheme, in many respects the limits were too low; but also the prior complaint expedient that was put in, has effectively debarred a lot from seeking justice. Only seven settlements so far have been reached out of about 210 cases and those cases are still going through the courts.”
“I recently met a victim of, who has been involved in this situation for quite some time, of horrific abuse, at the hands of a Christian Brother in a school. The person who abused was subsequently convicted, okay, so there’s no doubt about the issue. And I think he was convicted of other abuse cases as well. And there are quite a number of other victims out there at the moment, Taoiseach. Now this man went through horrific abuse, has been up and down through the courts and religious orders and has received absolutely no compensation, not a cent, nothing from the State. And, recently, in the High Court, because many of these people discontinued their cases when the Supreme Court ruled that the State didn’t have an obligation, the High Court would not uphold the rights now to pursue it in law and, indeed, Judge Barrett made such a ruling. But he also said in his statement that ‘The Irish people…’, and I quote, this is at the end of the court case, the High Court: ‘…with their great and proper sense of justice may well conclude to the path of rightness in this matter should lead ultimately into a different end’. He added: ‘as an Irishman, I would respectfully agree’. Essentially, Taoiseach what has been going on has been quite, in my view, unacceptable.”
Enda Kenny: “I don’t know how many victims of sexual abuse there are in the, there have been over the years in the primary system, no more than the secondary system I assume. We have the, we had the redress scheme, we had the case of all the Magdalenes – not that there was sexual abuse in the vast majority of cases. There is the mother and baby home report coming before the Minister for Children as well which we’ll have to see what that means. I can’t recall all the details of, of the file in this case. Your question is can something be done about this. I’ve no idea of the scale of what might be involved here. But I need to read the detail of the file and the legal outcomes here. People who are abused have to live with that for all of their lives and it’s a horrific issue to have to contend with, every waking moment. Now, I don’t want to go beyond that because to come into something that I haven’t the full facts and details about, it wouldn’t be appropriate on the floor of the Dáil here…
Kenny: “Yeah, you see, you mention that there are 7 out of 210 that have been settled – that’s 210 that are before the courts now. But, you have no idea of the numbers who might wish to come forward and say ‘I was sexually abused in school X or Y by teacher or person X or Y. You have no idea of the scale of that. And, and, I think in the process, when the State dealt with the Louise O’Keeffe case, on the 28th of January, 2014, that judgement was issued and the State awarded made awards both in respect of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages and costs and expenses. They also agreed in December of that year that out-of-court settlements would be offered to those extant cases of school child sexual abuse being brought against the State – where the cases came within the terms of the ECHR judgement and satisfied the statute of limitations. And in that regard the State claims agency could manage such cases on behalf of the State, has made settlement offers which have been accepted, as you say, in six cases. In July 2015, the Government approved proposals to offer ex-gratia payments of up to a maximum of €84,000 to those who initiated legal proceedings in such cases agains the State but who subsequently discontinued their claims against the State and where, similarly, the circumstances of the claims came within the terms of the ECHR judgement and where the claims were not statute barred prior to the proceedings being discontinued. I’ll follow through on the question.”
There you go now.
Previously: Grooming A Nation
From top: Patrick Treacy and April Duff
Further to new proposals that would entail the Deaprtment of Education ‘encouraging‘ the Catholic Church to transfer patronage of primary schools.
Patrick Treacy SC, of new lobby group ‘Faith in our Schools’ and April Duff, chairperson of Education Equality, spoke to Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio One this morning.
Mr Treacy, who runs a ‘domestic centre of Christian spiritually’ called Integritas, in Stoneyford, Co. Kilkenny, argued that he actually wanted more divestment.
Patrick Treacy: “We’re in favour of divestment because we want Catholic schools to be really Catholic, and Protestant schools to be really Protestant. And what we believe is that when parents start to see Catholic schools and Protestant schools really living out the Christian philosophy and understanding…”
Seán O’Rourke: “And are there Protestants in your group?”
Treacy: “Well, for instance, my wife is Protestant and just to say this, I have four children. And my three sons are Catholic and my daughter is Protestant and we send all of our four children to an Educate Together school and we actually live through the very thing that April is talking about and it’s an absolute superb school in Kilkenny. But the problem is, we know from experience that what April is actually suggesting doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Because what Catholic schools need to learn from Educate Together, which is a huge gift, that Educate Together give is that they really show you the importance of parental involvement. That’s what we’ve got to bring in, in particular to Catholic schooling. We’ve got to move away from this mentality that the parent is left outside the school gate. The parent has got to come right into the school but the problem is, is that we need Catholic and Protestant schools to permeate the ethos throughout the invisible pedagogy, so to speak, throughout the entire working day, or sorry, the entire school day, I should say.”
O’Rourke: “What do you say that to that, April?”
April Duff: “I think the main point to make is that we don’t live in an ideal world. And, even if we did, we couldn’t have a Muslim school and a Hindu school and a Jewish school and a Scientology school in every single area where there is one child. So this idea that you have a right to be educated in accordance with a particular religious belief and for that to be the only, the only ethos that’s within that school, just isn’t sustainable because you can’t have that for every single religious belief and every…”
O’Rourke: “So on the basis of that logic then, there should be no schools based on any particular ethos, except where there’s a sufficient population to allow for one for everybody in the audience, as it were.”
Duff: “No the school should cater for everybody. I mean, remember, the purpose of schools is to educate. We’re talking about education here. These aren’t religious institutions, they’re educational institutions, they’re institutions to educate people. Remember, those schools are paid for by the taxes, sorry, by the taxpayer and people – atheist parents, Muslim parents and Catholic parents – all pay the same taxes. So the schools simply have to accommodate everybody and have to respect religious freedom of everyone. And the current system simply does not respect religious freedom. Because, first of all, you’re penalised in accessing school because, if the school is oversubscribed, you won’t get in unless you have a baptismal cert or if you don’t belong to the right religion. So you’re penalised for the exercise of your religious right at that point and then, once you’re in the school, you don’t have a right to continue your religious belief without another…”
Duff: “…religion being imposed on you.”
O’Rourke: “Brief response to that, Patrick Treacy.”
Treacy: “Well just to say, unfortunately, there’s been a gross exaggeration of the position in relation to the baptism requirement. The actual position there is that only 1.6% of Catholic primary schools have an oversubscription problem – 3.69% in Dublin. That’s the first thing, the second…”
O’Rourke: “But it doesn’t get away from her substantial point that she makes about what the children are subjected to, if you like – and I know that’s probably a loaded phrase – in the course of the school day.”
Treacy: “Well can I just say this, let’s just be clear about one thing we can all agree on too. The word education comes from the Latin ‘edu cara’. It means to ‘lead out’. Now you either accept that your child is a spiritual being or that your child is not a spiritual being. The vast, vast, vast majority of parents believe that their child is spiritual, all right? So if you want to create a schooling system that denies the spiritual basis of the child, that in my view is not education.”
There you go now.
The debate followed an interview on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland with Education Minister Richard Bruton.
Mr Bruton spoke about the Government’s plans to transfer patronage of primary schools from the Catholic church.
During the interview, presenter Gavin Jennings reminded Mr Bruton that there are more than 3,000 primary schools in Ireland and 90% of them are still run by the Catholic church.
Mr Bruton said:
“We are committed to trebling the rate at which there is new options emerging, with a target of 400 schools which would be, you know, multi-denominational, over the next 15 years. So that would be trebling the rate at which we develop new options for people.”
Mr Jennings also asked Mr Bruton how many Catholic primary schools had been divested so far. Mr Bruton said 11 while Mr Jennings said some reports claim that the figure is just two.
In addition Mr Jennings asked Mr Bruton if schools will continue to be allowed to prioritise pupils on the basis of their religion.
Mr Bruton replied:
“The provision in the existing bill, there’s a lot of valuable things there and I think it’s very important to say what’s in it. It provides that there must be a written policy, it provides that children with special needs cannot be discriminated against, it provides that parents must, you know, be consulted in respect of any changes in that policy. Parents must have an opportunity to review, there can’t be discrimination in different areas.”
“Now the issue of whether an oversubscribed school, that is a religious ethos, can, if you like, choose a child of a religious background over those of a non-religious background, that is a thorny issue which the last committee recognised, raised, you know, difficult Constitutional issues.”
“And I will have to sit down with colleagues in the Oireachtas to discuss how we handle that because we don’t have a majority. There will be different views on how to handle this and indeed whether it can be done within the Constitution. But that will be something that I will sit down and discuss with others in the Dáil so that we can have not just the good elements of the existing admissions bill but have a debate about that issue as well.”
Listen back here
A short film from Equate Ireland ahead of the general election, as part of the group’s Open The School Gates campaign.
“With a general election expected next month, a movement is underway in the rapidly changing nation to target another hurtful social condition by which non-Catholic children are legally denied seats at overcrowded state-financed primary schools, 97 percent of which are controlled by Catholic authorities.”
“With schools allowed to give preference to Catholics, other families are forced to have their children baptized in the church, linger on school waiting lists or search for scarce alternatives. Only 74 of the nation’s 3,200 primary schools are run by Educate Together, the main multidenominational alternative, whose Dublin schools are swamped with four applications for every available space.”
“…Church officials are at odds, with some urging a slow evolution toward a more open-door policy in the schools. Clearly the current policy is at odds with a modern Ireland. The most encouraging force in the debate is the Irish public’s realization that their nation can no longer afford shameful religious bias to remain in the law.”
Michael Neary, the archbishop of Tuam
Michael Neary, the archbishop of Tuam,, says that we have mainly church-run schools because parents want it that way (“Parents must ensure the ethos of Catholic schools is maintained, says archbishop”, November 11th).
I would suggest we have predominantly church-run schools because parents have virtually no choice in the matter.
If the church is so sure of its position in the debate, then surely there would be no objection to asking the people of Ireland what they want, democratically, rather than dictating ever more from the pulpit. A vote to decide the matter once and for all would seem a reasonable proposition.
Pic: Tuam Herald
From top: David Quinn, Section 7 (3) C of the Equal Status Act 2010 (click to enlarge)
Barrister Patrick Monahan and David Quinn, of the Iona Institute, spoke with Keelin Shanley this morning on RTÉ Radio One about how children who are not baptised in the Catholic church are being refused access to schools across Ireland.
In relation to this, Mr Monahan is calling for Section 7 (3) C of the Equal Status Act 2010 to be abolished. He has set up a petition which currently has more than 13,000 signatures and he will be bring it before the Oireachtas petitions committee in September.
Mr Quinn believes it’s just an issue of oversubscription.
David Quinn: “The Department of Education did a survey of parents in about 43 areas in the country, involving more than 200 schools and found that the average level of demand among parents for a different type of school was about 8%, resulting in a request that about 28 of these schools, in these 43 areas, as I say involving more that 200 schools, be handed over to bodies like Educate Together. I mean that says two things: that there’s a certain level of demand for a handover of schools but there’s a level of demand being exaggerated too because when the Department of Education survey was done and found, the average level of demand was 8%.”
Keelin Shanley: “There is another argument there, that when you ask parents and kids are in a school, everything is going fine. You ask them do they want to change it, they kind of go, ‘well, things are OK, you know, it’s not the same as…”
Quinn: “Well it was also parents who have kids in school, in the future, so it wasn’t just parents who have children in schools now.”
Shanley: “Let me bring in Patrick Monahan in on this. It would seem from what David’s saying there, he’s totally open to the idea of a certain number of schools divesting.”
Patrick Monahan: “It would seem so and I’m not here to talk about divestment. I’m here to talk about schools turning away children who don’t have baptism certificates. Divestment is a red herring and if I hear it mentioned again I think my head might explode. There has been no divestment. I don’t actually want divestment particularly. I mean divestment is fine for people who want non-religious education. I just want my child to get in to the local school so I started a petition, the petition now has 13,000 signatures in the space of two months. I’m not part of any organisation or any party. Basically, I’ll just give you a brief rundown of it. I live two minutes from our local national school. It happens to be a Catholic-run school. As you said, over 90% of the schools in the country are Catholic-run. Now they’re all taxpayer-funded. The teachers are paid for by taxpayers, the janitor, the upkeep of the school, the building programme for the school, all paid for by taxpayers. But as things stand my local school is oversubscribed so Irish law – this has nothing to do with the Church and nothing to do with divestment, I don’t want to build a school and I’m sick of people saying to me, ‘why don’t you build…?’. I’m not a builder, I’m a lawyer. I want my child to go to the school that’s two minutes away.”
Shanley: “Why can’t your child get into that oversubscribed school?”
Monahan: “So. Section 7 (3) C of the Equal Status Act 2000, it could be called the ‘Catholics First’ law given that it applies to over 90% of schools. That section allows schools to discriminate on the basis of whether or not the child is baptised. If a child… basically Catholic schools throughout the country must have an enrolment policy and I beg anyone to look at their local school’s enrolment policy. That policy will say, ‘Number one, local Catholic children’. Then, more than likely it will say, ‘Number two, Catholic children from anywhere else should they need a school’. And the, under a category called ‘Other’, into which my gorgeous little five-month-old child falls. He falls into the Other category when it comes to the school two minutes from my house. I don’t want to build a school, I don’t want to drive a half an hour to an Educate Together school which is very good if want non-religious education. I want my child to go to the local school with his friends from the GAA club and his road… that’s all I want.”
Shanley: “Just to clarify so this Section 7(3) C of the Equal Status Act…”
Shanley: “So you don’t mind if your child goes to a Catholic-ethos school, you just want to be allowed to be undiscriminated against in getting into the school.”
Monahan: “Divestment is a red herring. So many parents that I’ve spoken to, they want their kids to go to the local school, that’s all they care about, repealing Section 7(3) C, the Catholic’s first law, all it will do – it won’t affect patronage, it won’t affect ownership, it won’t affect the teaching of religion. There’s a spectrum of changes that people, some people want from total removal of religion, total removal of patronage, all I’m asking for is the minimum possible change...”
Shanley: “To stop discrimination…”
Monahan: “Stop discrimination and allow all children into local schools.”
Shanley: “Can I ask, this Section 7(3) C, does it apply to anything other than schools?”
Monahan: “That’s a very good question. Section 7(3) C only applies to schools. The funny thing is it’s the Equal Status Act. The Equal Status Act sets out lots of types of discrimination that are not allowed. The Act says in one part, religious discrimination in schools is not allowed but it makes an exception for religious-run schools – which are around about 98% of schools so you can see the problem there.”
Quinn: “If there’s oversubscription in a given area, there’s going to be a certain number of children who are going to lose out and so the answer to that, first and foremost, is provide enough places because no matter what…”
Shanley: “Why not get rid of the Section 7 (3) C…?”
Quinn: “Yeah but you’re still going to have to have some kind of selection criteria. Now let’s say it’s first-come first-served all right? And we’ll say there’s oversubscription in a given area because there’s this overcrowding in the schools and you have first-come first-served. So somebody puts their child’s name down when their child is a baby and they’re well settled in the area. Somebody comes into the area and their child is four and the school’s already booked out for several years back. So even first-come first-served, it produces losers. So the idea is just make sure there’s enough school places in a given area and these problems simply don’t arise Just make sure there If there’s enough school places…it makes sense for a school to give priority to the parents who believe in the ethos of the school because the school is set up for a particular reason…Discrimination is an extremely loaded word.”
Monahan: “An oversubscribed school needs selection criteria. However that the number one criterion should be whether or not a child has had its head wet is insane.”
Quinn: “That’s completely trivialising…”
Talk over each other
Monahan: “No, no David, please don’t interrupt, I didn’t interrupt you. One moment. David is suggesting the schools need enrolment criteria. Obviously. If 400 people apply to a school and there are only 200 places, they need to have criteria on which to decide whether or not to allow a child in. Now to me, things like catchment area, whether or not the child has already had siblings in a school, these things make a certain amount of sense and can be worked on. There has to be sensible, predictable criteria. Now whether a child is baptised or not, it’s predictable but it’s not exactly fair.”
Monahan: “David is the first person, honestly, that I’ve met that opposes this. You know. I mean we’re talking about four-year-olds here.”
Quinn: “Your circles of friends aren’t wide enough then.”
Monahan: “Oh no trust me David, I’ve actually got lots of Catholic friends and I’ve got lots of Catholic family members and you don’t speak for Catholics. Catholics are absolutely as much against this as anyone else. They want people to mix…”
Quinn: “What’s your evidence of that? Except for having anecdotal evidence. Come on, please, give me a break.”
Monahan: “My family…yes, anecdotal evidence.”
Shanley: “And what’s your evidence David?”
Quinn: “Well I mean, the baptism, if there was a big rebellion against the type of school system we have, we would have seen it in the Department of Education survey of those 43 areas.”
Talk over each other
Shanley: “Specifically, what’s your evidence that Catholics would oppose the removal of this section…”
Quinn: “My evidence…if there was a groundswell of opinion against what schools are doing now it would have been reflected in the Department of Education survey and it wasn’t.”
Shanley: “And it wasn’t. Ok. Patrick that’s a fair point?”
Monahan: “Yeah. I’m a dad, I’m not a part of any organisation. I’m absolutely on my own on this. I started a petition about six or seven weeks ago, it’s got 13,000 signatures and growing, David. That is evidence that people want this law repealed..”
Quinn: “Why wasn’t there more of a rebellion against the current situation when the Department of Eduction ran that survey?”
Talk over each other
Monahan: “Was the question asked – should this to be repealed?”
Talk over each other
Quinn: “The answer is ‘I don’t know’.”
Monahan: “David just asked me why was it that in that survey that a groundswell of people didn’t support this. I’ve one question for David, was that question asked?”
Quinn: “I don’t know.”
Monahan: “It wasn’t asked in the survey. Nobody asked did they want this law repealed in the survey.”
Talk over each over
Quinn: “If there was general dissatisfaction with what’s happening now, it would have been reflected in that Department of Education survey.”
Monahan: “And I think if you ask people, do you think children should have equal access to school, children should be allowed, regardless of their religion or should we discriminate against unbaptised children, I think they will go for the former option.”
Quinn: “I think if you loaded the question that way, you would certainly get the answer…”
Monahan: “Well how do you load it David?”
Quinn: “A question I would ask is, should schools be able to favour those who back the ethos of the school?”
Monahan: “Discriminate, in other words?”
Shanley: “OK, listen we’re going to leave it there. Just very briefly, Patrick, what are you going to do about your son? You’re not going to have him baptised.”
Monahan: “He is going to go to the local school. There’s 13,000 signatures on the list. It’s going before the Oireachtas petitions committee in September. I’m going to put it to them. I’m hoping that the Educations (Admissions to School) Bill 2015 will be amended so that this repeal will go through.”
Talk over each other
Quinn: “[inaudible]…the Constitution, to do it.”
Monahan: “Excuse me now, I’m the lawyer, I think I’m the lawyer here.”
Shanley: “You know what, we’re going to leave it here.”
You can sign Patrick’s petition here
Listen back in full here
Of any denomination.
Milltown, Dublin 6.
Alan Power writes:
We are trying to get a national school for the kids in Milltown, there’s none at the moment, of ANY denomination.
It’s a population of over 4000 and no school. There is a birth rate of 64 babies per year, the last school was closed in 1995 when the population was less than half the size, it was actually replaced by 625 residential units.
We are desperately trying to get the department to do something about it and have met with the Minister who has agreed there is a need. We are currently involved in a door to door petition campaign.
Labour education minister Jan O’Sullivan
Labour education minister Jan O’Sullivan spoke to the Irish Independent yesterday about Catholic schools giving preference to baptised children.
“I don’t think anyone should feel forced to baptise their children, if it is not something that they want. And I don’t think the church want that either.”
The paper reports that her comments prompted the following responses from her Fine Gael colleagues.
“We need to focus on the economy and job creation in the run-up to the election instead of coming up with ideas that are going to ruffle feathers in parts of the Government.”
– Fine Gael Junior Agriculture Minister Tom Hayes
“From an election point of view, now is not the time to have a debate you can’t win because you are not going to make everyone happy by doing it.”
– Fine Gael Cork North West TD Aine Collins
“The problem with enrolment in my constituency relates to bricks and mortar not the signs hanging over the door.”
– Fine Gael Dublin North TD Alan Farrell
There you go now.
Previously: Educate And Party Together
Pic: Laura Hutton/Rollingnews.ie
Locations of multi-faith primary schools (top) and those of Catholic ethos (above).
I think your readers might be interested in theese screen grabs of Dept of Education’s website, showing the results of searches for multi-denominational primary schools and Catholic ethos primary schools.
The visual is quite striking, and nicely illustrates the point that most families in Ireland have no choice but to attend schools controlled by the Catholic Church. In a secular state religious run schools should be the exception, not the norm….
Previously: Ask A Broadsheet Reader