Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Community Schools.

33.

asked the Minister for Education if his attention has been drawn to reports of the speech made by the Most Reverend Dr. McQuaid, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, on 13th October, 1971; if he will indicate his attitude to the view of the role and function of community schools expressed in that speech; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I have seen reports of the speech to which the Deputy refers and I do not feel that it would be appropriate for me to make any statement in relation to it except to point out that the schools in question are being organised in accordance with proposals framed by me which took all relevant factors into account.

Arising from the Minister's quite staggering reply about a speech which he heard, is he aware that Dr. McQuaid has said that these schools will be "Catholic Schools", that they will be "our schools", meaning Catholic schools, and that schools of other denominations will be "their schools", meaning Protestant schools? How on earth can the Minister say that anything which is described as a "Community school" can also be "our school", that is to say a Catholic school?

I feel that Deputy Thornley does not appreciate what a school is.

I know what a community is anyway.

In my view a school is the totality of the pupils and the teachers; a school is what they make it. I could refer the Deputy again to the management structure of the schools in question——

And the ownership structure.

It should be quite obvious to everybody that the composition of the board will reflect the attitude and the wishes of all those concerned with the school.

All those concerned? Is the Minister also aware that the Most Reverend Dr. McQuaid has described these schools as schools which will be Catholic because of their management and teaching staff, precisely the thing to which the Minister has referred? Is the Minister not aware of the enormous disquiet that this speech and the attitude of his Department is causing to the minority in this country?

I am aware of the enormous disquiet in the Opposition benches because I am succeeding in doing what they said I could not do. I am providing community schools. I remember not long ago when a discussion took place here in relation to community schools and I was charged with having secret agreements with His Eminence, Cardinal Conway, in relation to these schools. I denied this but, of course, my denial was not accepted by the Opposition. They assumed that the Cardinal in some way would prevent the religious from having their say. They went along a certain track because they thought it would be the popular one and, suddenly, the religious made a statement. I have never seen such backtracking or at such speed as I saw in the Opposition benches at that time.

I should like to ask the Minister if I am right in saying in respect of these schools that he is vesting the ownership of them in trustees appointed by the Roman Catholic Archbishop; that the management of the schools will not be empowered to appoint teachers without the teachers having been vetted, not only as regards their morals but as regards their faith, by another group; that the schools have been described by the Roman Catholic Archbishop as being Catholic schools; and that these schools will incorporate the existing multi-denominational vocational schools? I should like to ask the Minister if he is telling the Protestant community that they should regard these as satisfactory schools for their children? If the Government in Northern Ireland did what they have never attempted to do—to transform the State schools there into Protestant schools in this way—would the Minister tell Catholic children that they should go to them?

The Deputy asks so many questions in one question it is impossible to follow him. As I have said on many occasions here, I have met very few parents who have asked for non-denominational education. I have explained in the House on many occasions that the Protestant community, whenever they met my officials or myself, were very anxious to ensure that their children would have the opportunity of being educated by people of their own faith. In fact, to help the Protestant community further, I am going to have built two comprehensive schools in this city which will be run by the Protestant community.

So it is Protestant community schools and Catholic community schools?

Would the Minister accept and support the statement made in reference to Question No. 33? Will the Minister give me a straight answer, yes or no?

I have given the Deputy my reply. The Deputy will not cross-question me in that fashion.

On a point of order, that is not the question I put to the Minister.

I have answered the questions put to me by the Deputies. I have pointed out what is the situation and I have pointed out the situation in relation to the management board. This is much more satisfactory than the Opposition ever thought I could obtain and I can understand their frustration and annoyance in relation to this matter.

Arising from the Minister's further reply—which is even more disgraceful than his original reply —would he not agree that his concept of a community school is that in some areas there will be Catholic community schools and in other areas Protestant community schools? Therefore would the Minister not change the name from "community school' to something else more in accord with contemporary Catholic teaching in a pluralist state?

I am calling Question No. 34.

We will come back to Question No. 33 for a moment——

I do not see why we should come back to it for a moment.

Does the Minister not recall telling us in this House that, of the increase in the post-primary school population in the last year or two, one-half opted for the multi-denominational vocational schools and one-half for the denominational private schools? In those circumstances how can the Minister tell us that there is no demand for multi-denominational education and that people want their children educated only in religious schools in all cases? Will the Minister not accept that, while there is a demand for education in religious schools, for which we must cater—and this is a demand that perhaps the majority of our people have at the moment—there is a long tradition established by this party of providing the alternative to multi-denominational education in schools organised by the public authorities and that it is wrong that this should be abandoned? Will the Minister not agree that people who wish to send their children to such schools will not be able to do so any longer in these two areas?

Is the Deputy suggesting that, when people opt to go to a vocational school, what in fact they are opting for is multi-denominational education?

They are multi-denominational schools.

The Deputy has asserted that when people opt for vocational education they are opting for multi-denominational education. That is not true and the Deputy knows this quite well. They are opting for a particular type of education.

The schools are multi-denominational.

I am calling Question No. 34. We cannot have a debate on Question No. 33. Would Deputy FitzGerald allow Question to continue?

(Interruptions.)

The Minister is handing them over to one religion.

If the Deputy would have a look at the management structure in some of our comprehensive schools he would find that this did not, and does not, deter Protestant children from attending them and it does not deter Protestant teachers from teaching in them.

Who owns the schools?

I am speaking about the management structure.

This is turning into a debate on community schools. I have called Question No. 34. We had a debate at some length on community schools in this House.

We will have it again at length.

Not at Question Time. I have called Question No. 34.

The only thing that is disturbing the Opposition——

Three cheers for a united Ireland.

The only thing that is disturbing the Opposition is that I have succeeded——

They have succeeded in disturbing the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin.

The only thing that has disturbed the Opposition is that I have succeeded in setting up community schools in Dublin where there would be two representatives elected by the religious, two elected by the vocational educational authorities, and after three years, two elected by the parents.

(Interruptions.)

We cannot debate this matter all afternoon. I have called Question No. 34.

The Deputies know that I am making available all possible facilities for Protestant education. I have done many things since I became Minister to help them, which they appreciate. As I said before, I will continue to do my utmost to help the Protestant children to be educated in the manner in which they obviously prefer to be educated.

I would ask the Minister to define the word "they". This word is perpetually used in this House.

Order, order. Would the Deputy please sit down.

Every time the Protestant community is mentioned the word "they" is used.

Every time I mention the Catholic community I say "they" also.

Question No. 34.

34.

asked the Minister for Education if he has seen a report on the concern of the Church of Ireland rector over the proposal to bring the new community school for Tallaght under the control of the Catholic Church; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I have already pointed out in reply to a question that in framing my proposals for community schools in Tallaght and Blanchardstown I took all the relevant factors into account. I do not feel called upon to reply to every statement that may be made in relation to these proposals.

35.

asked the Minister for Education if he has received a request for an urgent meeting from the Board of Education of the Church of Ireland General Synod to discuss recent developments concerning proposed community schools in the County Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the outcome of these discussions.

The answer to the first part of the question is "no"; the second part of the question does not therefore, arise.

Has the Minister received any communication from the Board of Education of the Church of Ireland General Synod in relation to this matter?

I have. I have received a communication requesting me to meet representatives of the board to discuss community schools.

How can the Minister say that the answer to the question is in the negative if he has received a request?

How, therefore, can the Minister say that the answer to the first part of the question is "no"? They are diametrically opposite statements.

For the simple reason that I like to answer the question I am asked. I was asked if I had received a request for an urgent meeting from the Board of Education of the Church of Ireland General Synod to discuss recent developments concerning proposed community schools in the County Dublin area. I have not been asked. I have been asked if I would meet the representatives of the Board of Education to discuss community schools generally. They suggested a number of dates to me and pointed out that one particular date would suit them best and I agreed to meet them on that particular date.

(Interruptions.)

Is the Minister aware that the representatives of the Board of Education, including Dr. Buchanan, have expressed grave concern—and expressed it publicly on a number of occasions—at the current activities, attitudes and decisions of the Minister in relation to this question? Furthermore, may I ask what reply the Minister gave to the Board of Education to their statement and their submission to him of last July? I understand no response whatsoever has been forthcoming from either him or his Department? Does he consider that, in the light of the current political situation in this country, this is the manner in which the Department of Education in the Republic of Ireland, so-called, should be conducted?

I have always been pleased to meet the Board of Education of the Church of Ireland.

There is condescension.

On any request I have been pleased to meet any group who desired to meet me in relation to these matters. I have been asked by the Board of Education to meet their representatives on a particular date. I have written to them telling them that I would be delighted to meet them and to discuss these matters with them.

Question No. 36.

Would the Minister please answer Deputy Desmond's question?

Would the Minister not accept that, when the responsible authorities publicly express concern about this matter, he should immediately meet such representatives and immediately seek to allay the grave fears which have been expressed? Does he not think that he should meet them even at 24-hours notice rather than, as has happened, that there should be no response since last July to the points made by the board?

Question No. 36.

As I stated, I am willing to meet them on the date suggested by them.