Belfast Telegraph

Church in shift away from schools

The Catholic Church in Ireland does not see itself being the sole or dominant provider of primary schools in the future, it has said.

The Irish Catholic Bishops said they have long stressed their willingness to allow different groups to oversee primary school education.

A report from Tanaiste and Education Minister Mary Coughlan suggested 10 possible areas where the Church would no longer run certain schools.

In a statement, the Council for Education of the Irish Bishops' Conference said the Church was committed to providing a Catholic education to children whose parents want it.

But it added: "However, the Catholic Church in Ireland does not see itself in the future as the sole or dominant provider of schools."

The Church runs 91% of the state's 3,165 primary schools and the Department of Education has pinpointed 10 areas where the Church could divest its patronage.

In the capital they include Dublin 4, Dublin 6, Portmarnock/Malahide and Whitehall, as well as the towns of Arklow, Athlone, Ballinasloe, Birr, Killarney, and Tramore.

"The Catholic Church authorities may now wish to identify some areas to trial the modalities by which the number of catholic schools could be reduced and thus releasing some schools for other patrons," the Department said.

It said the Bishop, parents and parishes would decide which school will be trialled.

While welcoming the study, the Bishops said no particular school has been prioritised.

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