Quinn accused of attacking schools to hide cuts

Calls for Govt to clarify its position on religious education

Education Minister Ruairí Quinn has been accused of launching an attack on Catholic schools to deflect from savage Government cuts affecting school children.

The claim comes as Taoiseach Enda Kenny is under pressure to clarify whether or not he agrees with Mr Quinn’s position that Catholic schools should be forced to stop teaching religion.

Fianna Fáil’s Colm Keaveney, a former Chairman of the Labour party, accused Mr Quinn of indulging in a “deliberate political deflection from the indefensible increases to class sizes in schools”.

Mr Quinn attracted a wave of criticism this week after he said that religion in primary schools should be ditched in favour of more time on maths and English after teachers attacked the Government’s overloading of the curriculum.

Mr Keaveney said the minister’s comments demonstrate a “shallow understanding of what education is, reducing it merely to a question of the training of future workers.

“There is little sign of any recognition of the importance of preparing our children for the ethical, spiritual and emotional challenges of life,” he told The Irish Catholic.

Meanwhile, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) rejected Mr Quinn’s remarks as “unacceptable” and accused him of attempting to devise educational policy as he goes along.

“It seems at best a hapless effort to devise educational policy 'on the hoof' and, at worst, an indication of an intention to undermine religious education in the vast majority of our schools,” the ACP said.

Mr Quinn’s comments, which come as schools around the country celebrate Catholic Schools Week, also received a swift response from Catholic bishops.

“We know in Ireland that parents will generally wish their children attend schools that support their own convictions. The Church, and our Constitution, support this choice,” a spokesman for the hierarchy said.