Irish Catholics are Irish citizens too

Irish Catholics are Irish citizens too

Dear Editor, I was interested to see how in calling for a secular state, Cardinal Marx drew a careful distinction between state and society (‘Facing the challenges for the Church’, IC 30/06/2016). Although state and society are not the same thing, too often we forget that the Irish State, like the Irish Church, is in important respects an expression of Irish society.

This matters especially when discussing how Ireland has so few State-owned schools. Most people, I think, don’t realise that descriptions of Irish schools as “Church-run” is just shorthand for how they are owned by parishes, dioceses, and religious orders, which founded schools to meet popular demand. Some claim that the State abdicated its responsibility by allowing this to happen, but that ignores how Irish people – Irish voters! – chose to educate their children through their Church with the help of their State, rather than handing their children over to the State wholesale.

Independent Ireland inherited this practice from the days of British rule, of course, when Ireland’s Catholics especially must have felt far less allegiance to the foreign-dominated civil authorities than to their own Church, and were probably keen to have their own schools after the many years when the law forbade Catholic education.

Whatever the reason, though, it’s clear that the citizens of newly independent Ireland felt that our education system didn’t need to be fixed as it wasn’t broken. Despite the vociferous claims of a few people given megaphones by our media, it’s far from clear that this has changed.

Yours etc.,

Gerry Fitzpatrick,

Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.