asked the Minister for Education whether he will actively encourage the establishment of multi-denominational schools in areas where parents lack the capacity to organise effective public relations campaigns.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Multi-Denominational Schools.
Official recognition is given to national schools in accordance with the Rules for National Schools on the basis of established needs and acceptance of due responsibility for the provision and maintenance costs of the school.
It is not my intention to depart from the generally accepted procedures for the provision of such schools. In the case of newly-developing areas the Department maintains close liaison with the local planning authority with regard to the provision of schools. It has been decided in principle, for example, to sanction the provision of a multi-denominational school in Dalkey. I think the Deputy refers to that. There is no doubt that the Dalkey school project was organised as a result of what the Deputy described as an effective public relations campaign. This does not mean, however, that a public relations campaign is essential to the establishment of such a school. So far as the Department is concerned consideration will be given to any case for a national school where it is established that there is a demand and need for such a school.
Would the Minister not agree that in the spirit of modern ecumenism we should move towards attempting to get rid of the undesirable, divisive influences of sectarian education in the past here and that we should move towards either multi-denominational schools or, ideally, the establishment of secular schools where religion becomes an extracurricular activity? Would it not be in the interests of the general attitude to ecumenism and the reduction of divisions within our very deeply divided society over a long period?
It is a touching thing for anybody interested in education to find that people believe it can be so effective. I am glad that is the underlying belief in the Deputy's commentary. As far as I am concerned, when parents want that particular organisation of primary schools I will accede to it, but I will not impose it upon them. As the Deputy knows, I have no power to do so because——
Is the Minister not prepared to give any leadership on this very important question?
The leadership will be provided by me when I have demands from citizens for rights which are enshrined in our Constitution.
Would the Minister clarify one phrase in his reply? In relation to developing housing areas he referred to consultation with the local planning authority. Would he indicate who the local planning authority is?
The local planning authority in the case of physical planning, as the Deputy knows, in his area, would be the county council and Dublin Borough Council, I presume.
What method has the Minister for ascertaining the wishes of parents in these areas as to the kind of education they wish to have provided for their children?
Purely on application for the provision of primary schools in the area.
Do the Department actually try to find out what parents want?
Of course they do.
Is it not a fact that they go to the churches rather than the parents?
I would say it is the other way round, at least it should be the other way round.