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10. Conclusions

  1. The Irish Government, through the Constitutional Review Group Report of 1996, is aware that it is colluding in a breach of the Constitution in funding National Schools which discriminate on religious grounds.
  2. The public is under a misapprehension as regards their rights in National Schools – they believe that the Catholic Church has complete control to run the schools as it wishes – a misunderstanding.
  3. The State does not articulate the rights of parents in relation to National Schools.
  4. There is no evidence of political debate regarding the major changes towards faith schools in 1965, 1971, 1999 and since 2000
  5. All changes to the National School system appear to have been agreed between officials in the Department of Education and religious officials. There is no public evidence of political involvement.
  6. There is no report, no political decision, no government review since 1870 which recommends that National Schools should be denominational There is no government report that recommends that children be educated only with children of their own religion.
  7. Uniformly in Ireland, in Europe, and at the U.N. all modern thinking and legislation recommends that children of different religions should be educated together – with a view to decreasing religious discrimination and strife in society. We in Ireland should have learned this lesson by now.
  8. The moves away from equal rights for all religions towards making National Schools into faith schools did not come in the early years of Independence, but only since 1965, more than forty years after independence.
  9. There may have been a better understanding among political leaders after Independence as to what National schooling meant, because of the consistent difficulties encountered by the British authorities in resisting religious bigotry in National Schools prior to Independence. This political corporate memory may have been lost by 1965, allowing intolerance and division to be introduced.
  10. Politicians of all parties today seem to be unaware of changes being made to the National School system. They seem to be unaware of the import of the new “Catholics First” admissions policy. Politicians of all parties have been and remain very poorly informed on legal matters relating to Church and State in education.
  11. There have been a number of myths that have grown up around National Schools without evidence or any apparent promotion – (i) that all National Schools were privately funded by the churches, (ii) that The churches always owned the schools, (iii) that National Schools are fundamentally faith schools and always have been, (iv) that all primary schools are National Schools – all untrue.
  12. The existing position of poor public understanding, poor political understanding, and significant undebated efforts by the Catholic Church to move towards faith schools is facilitating changes which are contrary to the needs of a more religiously diverse society.
  13. Losses in religious vocations, scandals about child abuse, falling numbers attending religious services seem to have strengthened, rather than weakened, the Catholic Church’s determination to maintain its dominant position in schools at both primary and second level.
  14. The Catholic Church is a didactic church which encourages its adherents to accept hierarchical instruction without debate. The predominance of Catholics in all walks of life in Ireland, including the civil service, may account for the changes towards faith schools that have been seen since 1965.
  15. The failures in regulation detailed in this report may be explained by reference to the Ryan Report which stated “The failures by the Department that are catalogued in the chapters on the schools can also be seen as tacit acknowledgment by the State of the ascendancy of the Congregations……………………The deferential and submissive attitude of the Department of Education towards the Congregations compromised its ability to carry out its statutory duty of inspection and monitoring of the schools…………..The failures that occurred in all the schools cannot be explained by the absence of rules…………. The rules were ignored and treated as though they set some aspirational and unachievable standard………….Not only did the individual carers disregard the rules……….but their superiors did not enforce the rules………….Neither did the Department of Education
  16. The State at one stage required that clergy must be part of the management structure of a National School – a condition that might explain the dominance of religions in National Schools.
  17. The publication of the Admissions Policies of National Schools is chaotic – it is impossible to find the policy of most schools in any public forum. It can only be found by contacting each individual school.
  18. Decisions might be made on the basis of legal opinion. Legal opinion has no standing, and it is common to be able to get legal opinions giving completely opposite views.
  19. Official published ruling by judges, of which there are very few on the issue of this report, are of some value, but are subsidiary to the legislation.
  20. There seems to be no reason for the State to involve itself in Deeds of Variation.
  21. Boards of Managment at National Schools which have adopted religious discriminatory admissions policies are acting illegally.

There is a concept in law that legislation means what a “reasonable man” would understand it to mean. Many people can rationalise an approach that involves taking no action when action should be taken – on the basis that there is a “legal opinion” that supports the inaction. Legal opinions (and contrary legal opinions) are easy to get – no account should be taken of them unless they are published and open to public scrutiny. The conclusions of this report are based on actual legislation, and, above all, on the Constitution.

This report shines some light on a situation in our National Schools where the laws of the State have been ignored for decades, but more particularly in the past ten years. This illegality, is very difficult to understand.The lack of implementation of the laws relating to our National Schools may be due to inappropriate deference to the Catholic Church authority.

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