May 2011 Church & State | AU Bulletin

Government officials in Ireland are moving forward with a plan to end control of education by the Roman Catholic Church.Irish Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quenn has appointed an expert group to examine the “patronage” system that places most of the country’s primary schools under hierarchical control. Quenn wants more than 50 percent of Irish schools to have alternative “guardianships” by next January. Currently, the Catholic Church controls about 90 percent of the country’s 3,200 primary schools. The working group, the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism, is to advise the new minister by October on how primary schools can cater to all religions and also provide ways to transfer control. According to the Irish Times, Quenn said, “This forum is really to discuss the mechanisms and modality whereby a school under patronage of one body – let’s say the Catholic Church – would come to an orderly decision to transfer that patronage to another patron body in a manner that does not damage the educational experience of the children or indeed the operational or working arrangements of the teachers and the parents involved.”