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Education Motion Passed By C Of I Diocesan Synods

The following motion was passed unanimously on current education cuts at the Church of Ireland conjoint meeting of the Diocesan Synods of Cashel, Ossory and Ferns Diocesan Synods meeting in the Woodlands Hotel, Waterford on 21st October, 2009.

Motion:

“That the joint synods of Cashel and Ossory and Ferns, meeting in Waterford on Wednesday 21 October 2009, wish to convey to the Minister for Education and Science:

  1. Their extreme disquiet at the unilateral re-designation of Protestant managed voluntary secondary schools outside the ‘free’ sector.
  2. Their concern that the full contents of the advice of the Attorney-General concerning the supposed unconstitutionality of the former financing arrangements is not being made available for open discussion.

Furthermore the synods would wish to express to Archbishops John Neill and Diarmuid Martin their gratitude for the forthright common Christian approach they have taken regarding this matter.”

This motion follows the withdrawal of over €2.8m in grants from Protestant schools because the payment was deemed ‘unconstitutional’ by the Irish Attorney General.

The Taoiseach Mr. Brian Cowen at Wolfe Tone Commemoration 2009

The Taoiseach Mr. Brian Cowen at Wolfe Tone Commemoration 2009

Requests by opposition party’s that Taoiseach Brian Cowen outline details of exactly who and why the Irish Attorney General’s advice was sought after 43 years of the Protestant Ancillary Grant being paid without problem, have been refused.

It is also reported that a request from the Irish Independent newspaper for all information relating to the decision reached has also been refused by the Department of Education.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, His Grace Dr Diarmuid Martin has stated that this grant aid to Protestant schools should not be cut. Roman Catholic fee-paying schools have had no difficulty with the funding Protestant schools have received in the past, he stated.

The last Budget also increased the pupil teacher ratio in Protestant schools from 18 to1 to 20 to 1.

In a hard hitting speech at the prize-day of Midleton College, Cork, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, the Rt Rev’d Paul Colton, contradicted the Minister for Education and Science, Mr Batt O’Keeffe’s version of the Protestant Schools dispute.

He stated:

“There has been much in the media since our last prize-day about schools such as ours. On this occasion when we celebrate the life of this school, and indeed schools like it, as Chairperson of the Board of Management, I take this opportunity to clarify one aspect of this sorry business.

Contrary to what the Minister for Education and Science has stated, the Bishops of the Church of Ireland, and those who work with us, have indeed responded to him since our meeting with him on 5th November 2008. Again and again, including in a Sunday newspaper article two weeks ago, in Dáil Éireann this week, in what has become a defensive mantra, the Minister says that he is still waiting to hear our proposals in response to the budgetary brutality and financial backstreet butchery inflicted on Protestant schools in last year’s Budget.

I want to tell you today that the Bishops of the Church of Ireland, in fact, wrote to the Minister on 2nd March 2009 asking him ‘…to endorse the long-established place of those schools within the free education scheme as “block grant schools”. This letter was copied to every member of Oireachtas Éireann. They all know, therefore, the truth of what I am saying. Other than a pro forma acknowledgment, the Bishops of the Church of Ireland have never had a response to that letter. Did we not deserve a response? Instead the Minister clamours for our response!

On behalf of the Bishops and on behalf of the Secondary Education Committee, on Thursday 7th May, Canon John McCullagh and I spent nearly two hours in a meeting with some of the Minister’s most senior officials. In a long and rambling discussion we repeated our request for reassurance that the block grant is secure and made the proposal that the situation which has pertained for over 40 years be restored – that is to say – that because of our special minority situation, our Protestant schools be treated, as before, as block grant schools, within the free scheme. This is our proposal.

These are just two of the formal occasions when we have stated this to the Minister. Clearly he chooses not to hear it. He does not understand. He hides behind secret advice about the document, not his alone, but the charter of the people of this country – our Constitution. Are we seriously to believe that the founding fathers and framers of our Constitution envisaged a situation where this Republic would become a hostile place for the children of the Protestant minority?

In case the Minister still has not heard it the message is this:  we want our schools restored to the position they were delicately put in by his predecessor in 1967. The Minister talks of proposals. When someone, as the saying goes, ‘has you over a barrel’ (which is what this unilateral reclassification feels like to our schools) obviously it is naive – disingenuous even – to talk of waiting for our proposals. Our proposal is this and for clarity I state it, yet again, publicly, we want our schools, in their uniquely difficult situation, restored to parity with schools in the free scheme, where they have been since free education was introduced 42 years ago”.

Meanwhile, the 1798 memorial or the ‘Stone Man’, as it is familiarly known locally, still stands silent in Liberty Square, Thurles. This ten-foot limestone pedestal has carvings depicting Theobald Wolfe Tone, the father of Irish republicanism and son of a Protestant coach-maker, together with Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Robert Emmet, again both of the protestant ethos. They died in their efforts to give this country the freedom it enjoys today.

Question now asked is, would these patriots have been so anxious to make this supreme sacrifice for their love of country, knowing that in future generations, those of similar religious persuasion, would be denied an education in their own ethos, by a Government that is proving itself more and more insensitive beyond Christian measure?  Indeed will the Taoiseach Mr. Brian Cowen give the oration at Wolfe Tone’s  Commemoration in Bodenstown in October 2010?

Time only will tell.

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3 comments to Education Motion Passed By C Of I Diocesan Synods

  • The cut in grant aid to Protestant schools is just another example of the government’s slap dash approach to everything! Rather than pre-empt a situation and plan ahead, they react, without any thought given to the long term consequences of their actions. You’d swear they were scrolling down an excel sheet one day and someone said “Brian, Batt, sure there’s €2.8 million going to the protestant schools, we can drop that! They’re grand and fingers crossed they won’t kick up a fuss”. Well they have and rightly so! The grant aid is not used by this community to furnish their schools with luxuries they could live without! If anyone had bothered to check, this grant aid is scrupulously managed, stretched and allocated to families in genuine need so that they can have their children educated through the Protestant ethos. We’re not talking about wealthy Protestants getting extra cash to send their children to ‘fancy’ schools. This grant aid DOES NOT go to them. It goes to Protestant families who can’t, for example, afford boarding school fees, but have no choice but to send their children boarding if they want their children to be educated through the Protestant ethos. Us Catholics forget how lucky we are, almost every town in Ireland has a Catholic school and our children can be educated in the Catholic ethos and prepared for confirmation and communion on our doorsteps. The Protestant community does not have that luxury. At least up until now, this country assisted them, so that they, like the rest of us, could educate their children through their Christian beliefs and practices – something which this community truly, genuinely values. Now this government has taken this assistance away. Just to make it clear, the government isn’t taking money away from rich Protestants, the government is taking funding away from the poor and robbing their children from the education their entitled to!! We’ve gone backwards and it’s nothing short of disturbing and embarrassing.

  • Hi Luke,
    The nearest Protestant Secondary Schools to North Tipperary are Villiers School Limerick or Kilkenny College.
    The protestant community of North Tipperary rightly feel that their schools are under attack from this Government. Personally I believe that this decision by Mr Batt O’Keeffe is unconstitutional and not the miserable €2.8 million grant. Put into context this Government grant of €2.8 million will only pay the expenses of 5 to 6 TD’s expenses, (give or take a hair cut for Mary Harney) over the next two years, or 25% of the cost of filming undertaken by FAS which was never used. I base this latter remark on recent press disclosures.

  • Elvis Blue

    The cut in grant aid to Protestant schools is just another example of the government’s slap dash approach to everything! Rather than pre-empt a situation and plan ahead, they react, without any thought given to the long term consequences of their actions. You’d swear they were scrolling down an excel sheet one day and someone said “Brian, Batt, sure there’s €2.8 million going to the protestant schools, we can drop that! They’re grand and fingers crossed they won’t kick up a fuss”. Well they have and rightly so! The grant aid is not used by this community to furnish their schools with luxuries they could live without! If anyone had bothered to check, this grant aid is scrupulously managed, stretched and allocated to families in genuine need so that they can have their children educated through the Protestant ethos. We’re not talking about wealthy Protestants getting extra cash to send their children to ‘fancy’ schools. This grant aid DOES NOT go to them. It goes to Protestant families who can’t, for example, afford boarding school fees, but have no choice but to send their children boarding if they want their children to be educated through the Protestant ethos. Us Catholics forget how lucky we are, almost every town in Ireland has a Catholic school and our children can be educated in the Catholic ethos and prepared for confirmation and communion on our doorsteps. The Protestant community does not have that luxury. At least up until now, this country assisted them, so that they, like the rest of us, could educate their children through their Christian beliefs and practices – something which this community truly, genuinely values. Now this government has taken this assistance away. Just to make it clear, the government isn’t taking money away from rich Protestants, the government is taking funding away from the poor and robbing their children from the education their entitled to!! We’ve gone backwards and it’s nothing short of disturbing and embarrassing.

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