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Archdiocese postpones vote on patronage of Dublin schools, citing 'confusion' about Church celebrations

It was claimed earlier this week that pupils would not celebrate Christmas at Educate Together schools.
Apr 5th 2019, 6:35 PM 13,682 68

A VOTE ON the patronage of a number of north Dublin schools has been postponed after the Archdiocese of Dublin cited “confusion” over what divestment would entail.

Earlier this week, it was reported that eight Catholic primary schools in the area could have their patronage transferred – or divested – to multi-denominational schools.

The process forms part of the Department of Education’s efforts to provide greater diversity in schools and to reduce the dominance of the Catholic Church in education.

However, opposition to the plan reportedly emerged in at least two of the schools in the parish of Portmarnock, Malahide, Kinsealy and Yellow Walls areas of Dublin ahead of the vote.

Staff in at least one of the schools are alleged to have told parents that Christmas fairs, carol services, nativity plays, St Patrick’s Day, St Brigid’s Day and Easter would no longer be celebrated if the patronage of the school was transferred.

It was also claimed by one gaelscoil in the group that Irish greetings such as dia duit - meaning ‘God be with you’ – would no longer be allowed. 

In a letter to the schools in the parish today, Monsignor Dan O’Connor of the Archdiocese of Dublin confirmed that a vote on the divestment of the patronage of the schools which was due to take place next week had been postponed.

He said that following a consultation process on divestment, “confusion and misinformation” had arisen about what the process meant “in a practical sense” for parents, pupils and schools involved.

O’Connor said that the archdiocese recognised that the “prospect of change can be difficult and that it is vital that all stakeholders are fully informed of what a change in patronage entails”.

He said it was therefore opportune to postpone the planned vote until a survey conducted by the Dun Laoghaire Education and Training Board into the preferences of pre-school children in the area was published and made available.

He added that the archdiocese was committed to working with the Minister for Education, officials, and other patron bodies to provide choice the education of pupils.

“The diocese has successfully divested schools in four other areas and is currently working with two schools who have expressed an interest in changing from Catholic patronage to an alternative patron body,” O’Connor said. 

Following this week’s reports, an Educate Together statement said the group had no interest in “taking over” schools and “imposing an ethos against the will of any local school communities.”

“At the core of Educate Together’s equality-based ethos is that pupils in our schools are exposed to different beliefs and perspectives in a respectful way that encourages critical thinking,” it said.

“Religious aspects of these festivities are approached from a learning perspective, rather than from a promotional perspective.”

The group was formed in Dublin in 1978, and is currently the patron of 84 primary and 13 second-level schools around Ireland with a total of 28,000 students.

With reporting from Christina Finn and Cónal Thomas.

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Stephen McDermott

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