The argument about whether or not Catholicism - or any religion for that matter - belongs in the public school system is one that has been brewing over the past ten years, at least. But this week, the debate has sparked up again after the news that two Dublin Catholic primary schools had sent letters to parents warning about a proposed change of patronage.
The letter was issued after The Government called for one of the eight Catholic schools in the Malahide - Portmarnock - Kinsealy area of Dublin to strip their Catholic ethos. The request is part of the wider Department of Education initiative to not only reduce the dominance of the Catholic Church in primary education but to also provide greater diversity within schools.
Along with the warning of the possible patronage change, parents were also informed that the school would no longer be able to celebrate Christmas, St. Patrick's Day and Shrove Tuesday as well as the removal of other school initiatives. According to The Irish Times, the parent's association of St Oliver Plunkett's School in Malahide learned that change would see school initiatives such as the school's garden fete, the healthy eating initiative, the Junior Entrepreneur Project and Book Buzz stop immediately. The parent's association also urged parents to get together in order "to avoid another Brexit-type disaster".
Speaking to RTÉ News, parents expressed their concern about the lack of information about the proposed changed. So here's exactly what it means should Irish primary schools begin to change their Catholic ethos:
Over 90% of children in Ireland are enrolled in Catholic primary schools.
Through a combination of new schools and existing schools switching patronage, The Government has pledged to introduce at least 400 multi-denominational schools in Ireland by 2030.
- If, one the eight Catholic primary schools in the North Dublin area do divest their ethos, they would then become either an Educate Together (multi-denominational ethos), a Community National School (multi-denominational ethos) or An Foras Pátrúnachta (choice of a Catholic, multi-denominational and interdenominational ethos). Each of these three schools celebrates St. Patrick's Day and Christmas, as well as other faith and cultural celebrations such as Eid and Diwali.
- Per The Department of Education guidelines, non-denominational schools are not required to ask pupils to seize celebrations of any religious festivals or events if they wish to do so.
Should a school become non-denominational and remove its Catholic ethos, parents who wish for their child to make Catholic sacraments such as a Communion or Confirmation, the child would have to do so outside of the school.