Ireland: hands off church schools...and hands off the gaelscoileanna

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Sep 26 13:49:06 UTC 2007

Hands off church schools

It's a funny old town. The schools in the suburbs and satellite towns
are packed to the rafters and the schools in the centre are emptying.
Children have been left without school places and the usual suspect,
the Catholic Church, has been getting the lion's share of the blame.
Catholic schools have this policy, you see, of favouring catholic
children. All around Ireland catholic churches accommodate kids from
all religions and none. But in the new areas where houses were built
without any thought for the needs of the people who were to live in
them, there aren't enough places in catholic schools so they, the
catholic schools, give priority to catholic children.

This has greatly offended the great 'liberal' movement of Ireland who
think it is the Catholic Church's job to provide an education for
everyone. What these secular warriors want is for the church to be
ostracised and control of their schools taken away from them. They
point out that the state provides 95 per cent of the funding for these

There is nothing liberal whatsoever about this attitude. What will
happen if these so-called liberals get their way, is that the state
will have the sole right to provide schooling to children in this
state. That's zero freedom and zero choice.

The argument about state funding is particularly obnoxious. Catholic
parents pay taxes too. As do Church of Ireland parents and Muslim
parents. They are entitled to school their children as they see fit.

The State hasn't covered itself in glory on these matters. Local
authorities gave planning permission for all these houses. The law is
there that developers can be charged fees to support local
infrastructure including, presumably, schools. In addition the State
is taking a huge dollop out of every house purchase in stamp duty.

So why hasn't the State used some of this money to provide schools?
That's the real question. In some cases you could argue that the kids
would be better off at home anyway, rather that stuck in a classroom
with up to forty other children while a teacher struggles just to
maintain sanity.

There is a issue of choice for parents in areas where there is just
one catholic school but the way to resolve this isn't to take choice
away from everyone. If our 'liberals' are that concerned, why don't
they open their own schools.

...and hands off the gaelscoileanna

If English was banned in this country, children here would still speak
it for generations to come. The English language permeates every nook
and cranny of Irish life. And very useful it is too, as the world's
business and cultural second language.

In some gaelscoils the school authorities have a policy of not
teaching English for the first two years. This 'total immersion'
policy allows children to better absorb the Irish language. But now
Minister Mary Hanafin has banned the practice in a typically
high-handed state intervention into local school affairs. The
gaelscoileanna movement, which is fighting the good fight against
monoculturalism, has taken this as a kick in the teeth, which it is.
The gaelscoileanna has a breathtaking ambition, which is to make
Ireland bi-lingual. They should be allowed to get on with it.

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