Belfast Telegraph

Protestant families 'struggling in Republic'

By Sarah MacDonald

The poor state of the Republic's economy has created huge financial difficulties for many Church of Ireland families there, the country's first female bishop has warned.

Former Londonderry curate Bishop Pat Storey said many are increasingly unable to afford to send their children to schools with an Anglican ethos.

The Bishop of Kildare and Meath said the homelessness crisis was more visible in cities and major towns but warned that poverty remained an issue in rural settings, as people find the "economic situation very difficult".

The 54-year-old Belfast native, who served as a curate in Derry before her historic selection in September 2013 by the Church of Ireland's House of Bishops, said the Republic's main religious minority was affected because many Protestant schools were private boarding schools catering for a widely scattered rural community.

She said parents were finding the fees for these schools "harder and harder to come by", particularly in cases where a parent "has lost their job and their child is in the middle of their boarding school education and they just don't know how they are going to afford the next four years."

Explaining that Church of Ireland parents are "less and less inclined" to send their children to Protestant boarding schools due to the costs, she said that these children would therefore be attending local state schools.

"I think we have to be broadminded enough to provide different provisions for different faiths and non-faiths so that people can step out of religious education class or confirmation preparation if that is not for them," she said.

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