News archive 2006

Bishops concerned at Government education proposals for Northern Ireland

PRESS RELEASE

6TH DECEMBER 2006

CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONCERNED AT GOVERNMENT

EDUCATION PROPOSALS FOR NORTHERN IRELAND

 
“We feel compelled to say that we cannot in conscience commend these
proposals to parents, teachers and all involved in Catholic education.”
– Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland

The Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland at their December meeting considered the
draft policy papers on the creation of new structures for educational administration
in Northern Ireland under the Review of Public Administration (RPA) as well as the
recommendations of Professor Sir George Bain’s Review. The Bishops issued the
following statement:

“We, the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland, are concerned that the draft proposals
for new structures of educational administration in Northern Ireland under the RPA,
pose a serious threat to the right of parents to choose a Catholic Education for
their children.

By these proposals the Department of Education will give the proposed Education and
Skills Authority exclusive and wide ranging powers without any requirement to take
account of legitimate Catholic interests.

The proposals will radically undermine a long-cherished Catholic education system
which has been recognised for the strength of its distinctiveness and the richness
of its tradition and diversity as contributing to the raising of school standards
and the promotion of a culture of tolerance and understanding.

Over the years the Catholic community in Northern Ireland has built up, at enormous
self-sacrifice, a network of Catholic schools with their own distinctive religious
identity and ethos. As Catholic Bishops we have the obligation to provide the service
of educational leadership to this community and to ensure the effective management
and planning of Catholic schools. These proposals limit our capacity to do so.’

The Bishops went on to say: “By contrast, we find in Professor Sir George Bain’s
Review an emphasis on the principles of “equality, accessibility, diversity and
parental choice” (9.3) which are patently missing in the Department’s policy papers.”

Concluding their statement, the Bishops said: “We are satisfied that we have made
every effort to engage positively with Government and the Department of Education
to develop arrangements in the best interests of all the educational partners and
which would provide quality education for all the children of Northern Ireland. On
this occasion, however, we feel compelled to say that we cannot in conscience commend
these proposals to parents, teachers and all involved in Catholic education.”

Supporting statement from the December General Meeting of the
Irish Bishops’ Conference

Following upon a wide ranging discussion about developments in education throughout
the whole of Ireland, particular concern was expressed by the Irish Bishops at their
December General Meeting in Maynooth at the situation being faced by their Northern
members in the light of the publication of the Review of Public Administration (RPA)
policy papers.

Ends

Further information:  
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)

NOTES TO EDITORS:  
– If you require further comment or an interview from a bishop on this
issue, please contact the Catholic Communications Office.
– The Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland are:
Archbishop Seán Brady (Archbishop of Armagh)
Bishop Patrick Walsh (Bishop of Down and Connor)
Bishop Joseph Duffy (Bishop of Clogher)
Bishop Seamus Hegarty (Bishop of Derry)
Bishop John McAreavey (Bishop of Dromore)
Bishop Gerard Clifford (Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh)
Bishop Francis Lagan (Auxiliary Bishop of Derry)
Bishop Anthony Farquhar (Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor)
Bishop Donal McKeown (Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor)
 

                                                                                                                                                                                     

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