Sinn Féin call for takeover of Catholic schools rejected

Sinn Féin call for takeover of Catholic schools rejected Senator Paul Gavan

A call from Sinn Féin for a State takeover of Catholic schools would trample on the rights of parents, theologian Dr John Murray has warned.

Speaking in the Seanad last week, the party’s education spokesman Paul Gavan said “we must work towards ending the patronage system completely”.

It is the patronage system that underpins the running of schools across the State to ensure the constitutional right of parents not to be forced to send their children to schools that conflict with their values.

Dr John Murray of Dublin City University told The Irish Catholic that “entirely secular” State-run schools would ignore the needs and faith of parents. He added that there is an anti-Church mentality in today’s society which has contributed to the “overall pattern” of denominational schools being attacked.


“The State is not the primary educator of young people, of children, parents are. The State has a role to play but it’s a subsidiary role rather than a dominating role. That would be a part of Catholic social teaching but it’s also common sense that the State shouldn’t run everything,” Dr Murray said.

Mr Gavan also told the Seanad that he believed that the State should take responsibility for “running and delivering an education system for all of its citizens through a secular medium”, rather than outsourcing its responsibility to private patronage bodies. He said it is wrong to separate children on the basis of religion.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic about the issue, the politician said that “parents have the right to determine their children’s religious education”. He later appeared to row back on his original comment, saying “the patronage system is not going to end completely”, adding that he was simply calling for more Government action to provide more options for parents.

Dr Murray said that in a country with a large number of Catholics, schools should be available to reflect that ethos, noting that such institutions are welcoming of pupils with other beliefs. “It’s part and parcel of Irish society that people do have different worldviews, and religion is part of that,” he said.