Government policy on Protestant schools “ill-conceived” - Arranmore cleric

A Catholic priest has come out strongly against what he claims are adverse Government moves on Protestant schools which he has described as “ill-conceived”.

A Catholic priest has come out strongly against what he claims are adverse Government moves on Protestant schools which he has described as “ill-conceived”.

Fr. John Joe Duffy, a curate on Arranmore Island, said this week that while equality was being demanded in the North, a different policy was being pursued in the South when it came to education.

Pointing out that they as a country should be “fully supportive” of minority faith schools, he insisted it was the duty of the majority to protect the rights of the minorities.

“The Government’s decision to pursue an educational policy that adversely affects the Protestant faith ethos in particular is ill-conceived and poorly thought out. This is particularly pertinent at this time when confidence-building measures for faith communities and different traditions are required in the North.

“When we consider it in the context of North/South relations the onus is on the Irish Government to pursue confidence-building measures and parity of esteem for minority faiths.

“Equality for all is what we demand in the North, but unfortunately we are pursuing a different policy in the South. This is a retrograde step by the Irish Government as the consequences will severely negatively impact on the Republic’s minority faiths,” Fr. Duffy maintained.

In a letter to yesterday’s ‘Irish Times’ newspaper, the Arranmore based cleric said the Protestant bishops had every right to be concerned as 130 out of 178 of their schools had 86 pupils or fewer.

“Under the disproportionate increase in the pupil/teacher ratio for schools with 86 pupils or fewer, there is the real prospect of the Protestant schools becoming one-teacher schools.”

Describing the move as “nothing more than a stealth closure and amalgamation measure by the Government”, Fr. Duffy claimed Protestant schools would find it difficult to amalgamate with other Protestant schools due to the nature of their communities which were dispersed and far away from another school of their ethos.

“In Co. Donegal, two of the Protestant schools where I am based are 87km away from each other, on very bad and dangerous roads. We as a country should be fully supportive of minority faith schools. They play an important role in the formation of values that serve our country well and our communities in particular. The ethos of minority faith schools has to be protected in our pluralistic society, where pluralism ought to protect faith-based and non-faith based schools of all ethos alike,” the local priest added.

Remarking that it was the duty of the majority to protect the rights of the minorities, he said if they failed to do that they failed as a pluralistic society and failed as a democracy that should cherish the rights of all its children irrespective of class, creed or colour.

“As a Roman Catholic priest, I, with many others, will do all we can to protect Protestant schools, for we are concerned for our neighbours and our friends and the position they face,” Fr. Duffy indicated.