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Minister Joe McHugh Brian Lawless/PA Images
Joe McHugh

Education minister on school patronage changes: 'Just to be clear - Christmas will not be cancelled'

It was claimed that Christmas celebrations in schools could be curtailed where patronage was switched to multi-denominational.

MINISTER FOR EDUCATION Joe McHugh has issued a statement this evening in response to what he characterised as “misinformation” around surveys on attitudes towards a possible change to the patronage of schools, and said “Christmas will not be cancelled”.

McHugh made the comments after it was reported that one of two schools opposed to having their patronage transferred to multi-denominational schools claimed that Christmas fairs, carol services and nativity plays would no longer be held after a school is transferred.

Furthermore, it was claimed that St. Patrick’s Day, St. Brigid’s Day and Easter would no longer be celebrated in schools either, the Irish Independent reported.

The change in patronage would affect at least two schools in the Portmarnock-Malahide-Kinsealy area of Dublin, and staff at Scoil an Duinnínigh and St Marnock’s NS are opposed to any changes, the Independent reported.

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

In a statement yesterday, Educate Together described this characterisation of multi-denominational and equality-based schools as “incorrect and misleading”.

Tweet by @Joe McHugh Joe McHugh / Twitter Joe McHugh / Twitter / Twitter

McHugh said this evening that the sharing of inaccurate information about what happens when the patron of a school is changed has created “fear and uncertainty”. 

“School authorities have a duty to share accurate and appropriate information,” he said.

Just to be clear – Christmas will not be cancelled. Neither will any other typical school holiday like Easter or St Patrick’s Day. Pancake Tuesday will not be banned. Nor will holidays or celebrations associated with the ancient Celtic/pagan festival of Halloween.

He said that the department assessing areas for new patrons “is not about forcing change”. 

McHugh added: “No decisions or reconfiguration will be required in September. I am appealing directly to schools, management bodies and boards of management not to issue claims that have no basis in fact.”

With reporting from Cónal Thomas

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