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Dublin: 6 °C Thursday 23 January, 2020

Priest appeals for sale of church gold to pay for much-needed teacher

The Department of Education has removed funding for a teaching position in place since September.

Image: Photocall Ireland

Updated 10.50am

CHURCH GOLD COULD be sold off to help pay for a teacher in a deprived area after the Department of Education removed funding from the school, a parish priest says.

The situation is unfolding in Moyross in Limerick, with Parish Priest Fr Tony O’Riordan SJ calling on parishes and churches around Ireland to sell unused gold objects to fund a teacher in the parish primary school.

Speaking to, Fr O’Riordan described the situation as a “scandal”, and said they had been forced into the appeal after exhausting all their avenues.


Moyross is one the parishes with the greatest concentrations of poverty in Ireland, and Fr O’Riordan said that the Parish has been forced into employing a teacher privately after the Department of Education removed funding for a teaching position in place since September.

The Department of Education said in a response to

If, over the coming months, it can be established that additional children will be enrolled in Corpus Christi, the Department will review staffing levels.

Fr O’Riordan is appealing to churches and parishes around the country who have gold vessels and religious goods stored away and unused “to consider selling these goods for a greater good”.

Paying for a teacher themselves

Fr O’Riordan said that the annual salary for a primary school teacher is around €30,000, and it is hoped that €20,000 can be raised in the church gold appeal.

They have already secured the salary for the teacher for a month and hope that up to €10,000 could be raised through bag-packing days and other events.

He said that the concentration of difficulties facing children in Moyross is huge, which makes it all the more important that they have an effective pupil-teacher ratio.

“I am very frustrated and angry with them,” he said of the Department. “We have to use our anger and not let the children suffer.”


Fr O’Riordan even contemplated selling his own belongings to raise money.

“I said I could sell my car, but I need my car. Then I thought, we have in the parish one small gold vessel in the church that we don’t really use, and I thought you know, I am going to sell that.”

From this, he thought that as other churches have similar vessels, perhaps they might be inspired to help by selling their items.

Fr O’Riordan said that the removal of one teacher leaves the school with the prospect of merging two junior infant classes.

The school has looked at different configurations to deal with the loss, but Fr O’Riordan said that if they merged the extra class into two other classes, “the ratio in those classes would go off the scale and those children would suffer”.

How could a teacher pupil ratio of 1 :32, which is 50% over the Departments ratio for DEIS schools, lead to anything other than poorer educational outcomes for these children?

The priest said that the Principal and the Board of Management of the school “cannot easily stand over such a detrimental move knowing how negatively it will impact on these children’s futures and education”.

Fr O’Riordan said he knows “that the Church family up and down this country has many gold objects gathering dust, so I hope that those with charge of these goods might listen to this appeal and help us meet the needs of these disadvantaged children and give them an opportunity for their God-given gifts to flourish”.

Fr O’Riordan said that rather than get in a “protracted row” with the Department, they want to “get off our butts” and do something.

If faith matters at all it matters in the sense we show solidarity with those in need. I think it’s a scandal that churches have invested in holy vessels that are gold and they are happy to leave children in Moyross suffer.

They had applied for the teaching post in June based on their projected intake, and due to a number of factors were 12 children short “of this very high threshold”. He said the projected numbers for junior infant intake were “spot-on”.

“We need more teachers, not fewer”

“The community has one of the most intense concentrations of poverty,” said Fr O’Riordan. “That means parents are struggling day-by-day to just make ends meet but they’re also struggling then because they have compound difficulties of legacies of violence and feuds. Many parents themselves have low educational attainment.”

The parents have been “very engaged” with the primary school, and the school runs adult education classes also.

“We should have extra teachers in our school, not less,” said a concerned Fr O’Riordan.

“That’s the thing that so frustrates me. Less than €1,000 investment in each of these children this year will save a huge amount in human misery these people face.”

He also said that the tax payer will end up paying more in the future if these children are not afforded the teacher.

We have proved over the last few years with a pupil teacher ratio under 20 we can take junior infants who are maybe two years behind their peers in other schools and have them at national average by first class. We are delivering the goods.

Fr O’Riordan also said the situation points to “the failure of the regeneration project to deliver in a meaningful way” – and asked: “Where are our two senior ministers from Limerick?”

Department response

The Department said that the allocation of teachers is done through a transparent and fair system.

For the 2013/14 school year, this school was awarded an additional post due to the growth in pupil numbers. For the 2014/15 school year, the school was provisionally awarded a further developing school post, on the basis that its enrollment in September 2014 would be at least 227.
The final enrollment for September 2014 was 12 pupils less than this requirement and the school was notified that its staff numbers would reflect that enrollment, and the additional developing school post would be redeployed.

It added that the school appealed to an independent appeals board that considers all circumstances in each case, and that board upheld the decision.

The number of full-time teaching posts in Corpus Christi for 2014/15 is 21, compared to 20 for the previous school year, it said.

Fr O’Riordan said that if anyone wants to get in touch with him about this appeal, he can be contacted on 087 928 69 45 or

First published 6.30am

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