Catholic Control in Irish Primary Schools (part 1)

It’s nice to know that Ireland is keeping up with the times. The economy is in good shape; priests no longer sexually molest children; the right to abortion is recognised and defended; people hold politicians responsible and vote them out when they deserve it; money no longer talks; gay people can live lives free of fear and discrimination; and the Catholic church no longer runs the whole show.

Yeah right – in some other universe, maybe.


The truth is that the Irish national school system, for all kids between about 5 and 12, is controlled by the Irish Catholic church. And we’re not talking about just a few scattered wacko schools here, but the vast majority of them, 95% or more. My niece, now 11, explained it all to me on my recent visit to the old country. And when she showed me her religious text books, and passed on her anecdotes, I shook my head in dismay.

Could it really seriously be like this in a modern European country?

So here’s how it works. The Irish state collects taxes to fund its schools. The board in each school makes the major decisions regarding how that school is run. And the head of the school board, regardless of ability, experience or popular vote, is almost always the parish priest. Which means a Catholic priest, I should add, for people from other countries who might imagine that any other fairy-tale power structures than Catholicism get any say in Ireland.

The children’s’ parents and school rector have a few seats on the board, but the actual power rests with the Priest and the church, and it has done so for over a century.

EnwQZN The priest therefore has a veto right over any and all decisions affecting the school: the teachers hired, the areas pursued outside the standard curriculum, and the influence of religion on the day-to-day lives of Irish children.

The church also gains a free platform to twist the next generation to their archaic and frankly terrifying view of the universe, a chance to use taxpayers money to raise a new generation of priests, and in return they give back to the community – nothing. Nothing, that is, but fear, guilt, abuse and oppression.

The children are forced to perform all the “celebrations” of the Catholic church, such as the ritual cannibalism of communion, and the responsibility-avoidance of confession. These rituals have priority above  their normal education – my niece told me stories of children missing math and language classes for church duty, such as altar service or choir singing. And the children really have no choice here – it is made clear to them from an early age that religion goes before all else.

It goes without saying that the Catholic faith is the only one on offer or, the majority of the time, the only one mentioned.

On top of this, the textbook (published by Veritas, Ireland’s premier publisher of Catholic propaganda) presents Catholic dogma not as theory or matters of faith, but as pure and unadulterated fact. There is no choice of textbook – only one is allowed, and the children must pay for it themselves, out of their own pockets, passing more money directly to the Irish Catholic machine.

I was under the impression that a modern democracy in a EU country would not support or allow compulsory religious indoctrination of children. And the Catholic church, with their undisputed track record of molesting and torturing children for decades, don’t seem the people to which we should be entrusting our childrens futures. It’s like hiring wolves to be shepherds.


To be honest, I hardly know where to start here. There are so many things in this story that make me fume. But here are a few links to get you started, if you think you need to fume a bit too:

This looks like it will be a very extended rant, so I will have to split it into parts. But keep on reading, because I plan to do something about it – I plan to raise some hell.

You see, I bought a copy of the religious textbook and discovered a pretty obvious copyright violation. The Apple symbol is used when discussing the creation myth, since the bone-idle layouter couldn’t be btoehreds to draw his own apple. And so I plan to nail Veritas for this. I repeat – they shall be nailed. Or at least made very very sweaty.

I will return to the sick little textbook later. But this but for now let me list what I intednd to do about this whole situation:

  1. Find out if the current set up in Irish primary schools is in fact legal by EU law.
  2. Write to Veritas and ask them if they have permission to use the apple symbol (and hopefully make them shit themselves). And also write to Apple and start warming up the boiling pot.
  3. Ask the Irish Catholic church directly and simply why they believe they should have this level of power in a modern democracy.

Join me in a week or so for part 2 of this rant where I dissect and quote the horrendous little textbook, and pass on some more anecdotes from my niece about day to day life in a “democratic” Irish primary school.

In part 3 we will look at the mails I sent to the various players listed above, and the replies received.

And in part 4 we shall summarise and see if any relies to mails have been fortcoming, and if the Catholic church has bothered to give a coherent response, and what Veritas think about copyright (and about Apple’s numerous lawyers).

I don’t expect to do much damage here, other than inform, since this has been going on for 150 years, and better men than I have tried.

But I am pretty sure I can nail them on the Apple.

/ paddy (Catholic-free since 1983)


54 thoughts on “Catholic Control in Irish Primary Schools (part 1)

  1. Ask the Irish Catholic church directly and simply why they believe they should have this level of power in a modern democracy.

    I’d be more interested in a reply to that question about the church from the Ministry of Education.

  2. Sadly, the Catholic Church is still in this position of power because it made common cause with the Nationalists for years while they were fighting the English. The Irish Catholic Church was regarded, much as the Polish one, as the embodiment of the country.

    • Actually, for over a century the CC was on the side of the British and routinely denounced nationalists from the pulpit and encouraged people to inform on them. I think it was a quid pro quo: Catholic Emancipation from the Brits in return for toadying to them and ratting on nationalists.

  3. I agree with Martin R. It’s not difficult to fathom why the Catholic Church would believe it to be in the best position to skim off from a government-run education system in a “modern democracy”. Indoctrination is their job and duty, so, from their perspective, it’s a perfect fit–and a profitable one to boot. (God knows, collections are down just about everywhere else.)

    Now, why the MoE holds the same belief is a different question entirely. It’s not for their religious beliefs–Poland and Italy and Portugal all have the same official religion, but the Church does not run their schools. There are to potential benefits to the MoE here–they shirk the responsibility of coming up with a meaningful curriculum and, very likely, the arrangement is profitable for their ranks as well. One thing we can be sure about–they are not doing it out of their religious duty.

  4. Martin: A great idea! They shall be contacted.

    freelunch: I guess power does whatever it needs to in order to survive. But now they are irrelevant, and its time to let that be known.

    buck: The curriculum is not SO affected by the church – but they do take children away from their normal education and waste their time on church activities. Plus the priests assume unofficial managerial duties in the school board, which, in theory, saves money for the school. But it’s a horrible, undemocratic, cynical system and should no longer be accepted.

  5. While I agree that no church should have any say in how our educational system is run, I think your impression of the indoctrination that goes on is exaggerated. There are not daily recitations, chants or prayers, nor are “religion” lessons all that frequent. Granted, a lot of time is given over to preparing for the sacraments of first communion and confirmation, two events in 8 years of schooling. Participation in these is not forced, at least not against the wishes of the parents. There was only one occasion of ritual cannibalism (nice phrase btw :)) that I recall…

    It’s worth noting that “religion” classes are held in many secondary schools as well. For me they were an opportunity to catch up on actual work, as after a few weeks even the teachers generally ran out of enthusiasm for their bullshit.

    • I attended National School from the early 1980s to 1990. We began and ended every school day with prayers, and spent a disproportionate amount of time learning about religion, drawing stations of the cross posters, acting out Bible stories… Participation in Catholic rituals was essentially forced, certainly strongly assumed – children were pressurized into attending Mass (told to guilt-trip their parents into bringing them) and bringing back the weekly missalettes to prove it. I remember assuming that all the Bible stories were literally true up until I began secondary school. And it’s not just a relict of the past: my niece currently misses some morning classes in order to work (unpaid) as an altar server.

      But other than the wasted time, the rest of the curriculum was essentially unaffected. Our history books started with the ice age, our geography texts included plate tectonics.

      • cathalmagus: It was the same for me – a lot of wasted time, but no lasting damage, unless you could me being a raving atheist these days. But I still remember the guilt and fear and the fact that I was hell-bound unless I followed the rules.

  6. randomhuman: I beg to differ – depending on the teacher there CAN be daily prayers, and there is no law to stop it. I remember secondary school religion too, and it was quite “new-age” although that was because of the teacher. At at least they mentioned OTHER religions (although not the lack of them). But still, the STANDARD school environment should not be religious, not with tax-payers money. And confession for 10-year-olds? Oh please.

    • I suppose with primary school teachers having pretty much free reign to do whatever they like, it’s bound to happen somewhere. However, with far fewer monks and nuns involved in teaching than previously, and the church in decline generally, I’d be inclined to believe it’s not a widespread practice. I hope not anyway.

      I think my big sin when I was making my first confession was “being mean to my sister”. Clearly I had welcomed Satan into my heart.

      • Yeah, I did the “being mean to my sister” too. Plus being greedy. And saying “blast” and “poop” too often.

  7. Freelunch: It’s a tangential point but the Catholic Church was far from making common cause with the Republicans that fought to free Ireland from British rule. Fenians were routinely denounced from the pulpit, threatened with excommunication and those ‘rebel priests’, such as Michael O’Flanagan, were few and far between. From Cardinal Paul Cullen on, the Irish Catholic Church was a loyal subject of the British Crown and adopted the stifling morality of Victorian England in the 1860s for its dicta, something that was previously absent from Irish Catholicism.

    The Church saw an opening in the 1920s and went for it but there was considerable – if ultimately futile – resistance to it, from the likes of Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, Yeats and Liam O’Flaherty. The link between Catholicism and Irish nationalism is not as simplistic as some people think.

  8. seanachie,

    Thanks for correcting me on my understanding of that part of Irish history.

  9. Unfortunately, you can’t enforce someone else’s copyright for them, they have to take that step. And I don’t think Apple would want to pursue this particular violation because has potentially negative PR consequences.

    • CarlosT: I know, but all I really want to do is make them sweat and grind their teeth a bit, the dicks. Christian baiting is fun!

  10. l. quatorze parodien find ich nur auf der leinwand toll auch wenn sich die irischen laiendarsteller damit sich nur lächerlich machen. die obszönität wird auch heute bestraft. ob das control hoffen läßt und es weniger sodomisten unter den irischen familien (und europäischen) es geben wird? aber vielleicht werden die sowieso in der hölle schmoren…


    p.s. eine unverschämtheit auch, ist die dame in lavendel.

    • beatricce: My German is a bit rusty, but I understood “sodomisten” and “lavendel” so it sounds really interesting! English translation, anyone?

      • She said:
        “I only like parodies of Louis XIV. on the big screen, even if the irish lay actors only make a fool of themselves by this. The obscenity is also punished nowadays. If the control does make an impact and there will be less sodomites among the irish (and european) families? But maybe they’ll burn in hell anyway…

        p.s. This Dame in lavender is also an impudence.”

        I hope there are not too many mistakes in the translation.

        By the way, I’m catholic. And you should seek the discussion with people who do not agree with you instead of writing senseless letters.
        I do not know the situation in Ireland, but I assume, that the church spends a lot of money for the education. So one of the main questions is: Who shall fund education instead?

  11. This post would be much better without all the mistakes, so I made a list of (most?) of them:

    1. btoehreds = ??
    2. very very = very, very
    3. But this but for now = But for now
    4. intednd = intend
    5. the apple symbol = Apple’s symbol (not sure if this is a mistake)
    6. the mails I sent = the mail I sent
    7. if any relies to mails have = if any replies have been
    8. fortcoming = forthcoming
    9. Remove “and” after “fortcoming”
    10. Remove “and” before “better men than I have tried” and replace with a period to prevent a run-on sentence.
    11. Could it really seriously be like = Could it really, seriously be like
    12. The children’s’ parents = The children’s parents
    13. their archaic and frankly terrifying view = their archaic and, frankly, terrifying view
    14. their normal education – my niece told me stories = their normal education; my niece told me stories (same mistake repeated a few other times)

    Hope this helps. :)

    • Alex: Thanks you for yor thorough and revealing prove-reading. And while its very nice to knowe where all the commas go, I have to admit that I right quickly and my browser misses most errors. However, I think I will leeve them all in, since you obviously understood the content annyway. But tanks!

  12. JulianK: The catholic church does NOT “fund” education in Ireland. The tax-payers do and the church simply, and cynically, assume power. In fact, by taking time from the kid’s education to make them work for free in the church, they make their education worse. Can YOU defend this? Because I can’t.

    And thanks for the translation!

  13. JulianK

    I do not know the situation in Ireland, but I assume, that the church spends a lot of money for the education. So one of the main questions is: Who shall fund education instead?

    I can confirm that our taxes pay for our children’s education, and the Church contributes little of any financial value to our schools, apart from the donated management skills of their personnel, as mentioned. And, possibly, free advertising for the bake sales and such that we need to fill in the funding gaps in our children’s education, through the parish newsletter. However, just at this moment, the Church (in the form of the fourteen or seventeen religious orders implicated in the recent Ryan report – can’t remember the exact number) is holding our Department of Education to ransom on foot of the infamous Woods deal.

    A few years back, the then Minister of Education, Michael Woods, seeing the train coming down the tracks, made a deal with these religious orders. The state agreed, for all foreseeable eternity, to exonerate the orders from being financially accountable to the victims of abuse under their care, if they would donate certain properties and a bit of cash to the state. The properties and cash, at that time, were valued at something around IR£125 million – it was estimated that compensation claims might reach IR£250 million, and the State accepted 50% liability as the funders of the schools.

    As it happens, some of the properties have yet to be handed over, and are also now worth less than they were. And the compensation bill, which has already topped €1 billion and climbing, is all coming out of the Department of Education’s budget – now squeezing out such educational luxuries as special needs teachers, schoolbooks, sports equipment and as well as basics like school toilets. It would just take a simple re-evaluation of the deal to get the Church to stop stealing from today’s children to compensate yesterday’s children. Nobody, either from government side or Church side willing to do that.

    On the other hand, you should be encouraged to know that my two children, having attended a Catholic national school, are self-proclaimed atheists – it doesn’t always stick!

    • Scotlyn: That’s really disturbing to know. I despise the catholic church a little bit more with every passing day. Their time will come and they will go the way of the Swedish Lutheran church – into obscurity, where they belong. And the churchy ways didn’t stick to me either, I just wish I had the knowledge back then to argue with the pompous priest.

  14. This is an interesting post, although not hugely original (that’s not a criticism, this is obviously an issue that bothers a lot of people) – but the fact is, Ireland is a Catholic country and the Constitution itself is based on Catholicism. Without changing the Constitution, we won’t ever see a move towards a non-denominational country, with education for everyone. One of the huge problems I foresee is that a lot of non-national children are now attending Educate Together schools, which are 80% (approx) non-nationals. They are non-denominational schools, but in the long run it will result in an almost apartheid-like vision of white Irish kids in one system, and everyone else in another.

    Until Irish people actually stand up, collectively, and demand change, it won’t happen. There’s no impetus for anyone to begin the expensive and time-consuming process of moving from a Catholic education, without someone forcing the issue. I personally wouldn’t send my children to a Catholic school if I could possibly help it, but I would also like to send them to a Gaelscoil; anyone know of a non-denominational school taught through Irish? Unlikely.

    I guess until we learn to separate our Irishness from the church, there can be no satisfaction. You would be better off lobbying the Irish people – although they are notoriously resistant to that kind of thing, preferring to brand it “propaganda” and cross the road to avoid it. Sad, but true.

    • Rosemary: I guess it’s not very original, but I didn’t actually know any of this until recently, as my kid is going to school in Sweden. And my readers are mostly not Irish, so it’s news to them too. I was mostly shocked that this is actually permitted at all in an EU country!

      Although what does that mean, exactly, to “be a Catholic country”? And why does it allow and forgive things that would never be accepted from any other body of power? I would love to know.

    • Sorry rosemarymaccabe, while I agree with the sense of what you say I have to pull you up on the phrase “non national”. Its very commonly used in Ireland especially by the media, but its an incorrect and senseless phrase. Just because someone is not Irish does not mean they do not have a nationality. There are approximately 191 nationalities besides Irish. The use of the phrase “non national” is verging on racist. It equates the person with being a “non” person, of being “not like the rest of us” and of being inferior.
      I suspect that is not the meaning you intend, but the phrase has become so prevalent in Irish society its scary.

      • This is irritating. You can’t see the forest for the trees; as Rosemary says, the way the schools are run is a logical outcome of the Constitution. Being a “Catholic country” means that that country is founded on the basis that Catholic teaching is correct that it’s legally OK to run institutions based on the assumption that the Catholic church is an authority.

        You can imagine, that, based on this assumption, religious education would seem important.

        For the record, I am a happy atheist, and I’d love to see schools managed in a secular way. But it’s not that the Catholic church has wrested control of the minds of Irish kids; the state was founded (in part) for the freedom to grant the church the right to do so. You’ll have to change Ireland before you change the schools.

  15. I tend to agree with Rosemary here. The church aspect of schooling is unlikely to be a good target compared to a few decades back because despite controlling the schools these days, there is very little clerical involvement in actual teaching. Recruitment into the various teaching orders has disappeared and lay teachers now form the vast majority of teaching staff.
    Its only 13 years since the divorce referendum scraped in with the slenderest of margins. The 49% voting along church lines on that occasion were in the main the elderly of society. Another decade or two and they will be gone.
    As a practical measure perhaps we should encourage young Irish atheists to make sure they get the regular flu vaccination (theres a limited stock of these and every time a young atheist gets one, an old believer goes unprotected!).

  16. Paddy,
    If the head of the school board isn’t elected, who decides who it is? MoE? Some local official (such as a mayor)?

    One issue worth exploring is whether priests end up on the boards out of unwritten tradition or out of some rule. If it’s tradition, nothing stops the Irish people from demanding change tomorrow…and if it isn’t MoE, writing them a letter won’t help any more than writing the U.S. Department of Ed about Texas school board members would help.

  17. Sigmund: A good plan! Hopefully the church will then shrivel up like an old wart.

    eric: No idea, I don’t pretend to be an expert on this, merely a shocked bystander. But writing letters is always fun, especially snotty ones.

  18. I also will, having little practical choice, be sending my kid to a rural catholic school. Its that or drive 25 miles daily to an educate together school. The pro’s of the Catholic school outweigh the cons and the pro’s are all to do with the social aspect. All his friends from creche and the neighbours kids will all be going, he can get the bus. play on what ever local teams he likes etc. If only i could remove him 100% from the shitty catholic element. Yup I’m gonna spend the next several years having rows with priests etc!!! Its a shitty situation but all we can do is kick up a fuss and let ’em die out.

  19. Go for it Paddy!

    Education in Ireland is full of hipocracy. The Catholic Church ethos is prevalent in the vast majority of schools while I reckon the vast majority of kids attending those schools are not brought up as true blue catholics. I have heard people say they would do anything they could to get their kids into particular schools because they believe they will get the best education there. Parents will quite happily ‘pretend’ to be practising catholics just so their kids can go.
    Most other schools are ‘private’ fee paying schools. However these schools also get most of their funding from the government! This is because most “non” catholics attend these schools and these tend to be people of the protestant faith. So they get subsidised too just to balance things up.
    There has been a muslim school operating recently which was deemed illegal becuase it did not adhere to the education curriculum closely enough. Though I think there are some muslim ethos schools operating validly.
    The only other alternative (apart from home education) are the Educate Together Schools which run under an all inclusive and non religious ethos. This is the course I plan to take and at least am lucky to have several nearby. However they are hard to enroll in – waiting lists – and to date there are only primary schools operating though there are plans to open secondary ones too.

  20. I’m currently living in England, but there’s always the possibility of a return to Ireland sometime, and given that we now have two daughters, the school situation is of concern. My eldest daughter is pre-enrolled in a number of Educate Together schools, but as I didn’t register her until she’d turned one year old, there’s very little chance she’ll get in to any of them.

    Can someone not take the Irish Government to the European Court over the inequalities of the Irish school system? Specifically the church control of state funded schools, and the teaching of dogma, or fairy tales, as if they were fact. Filling children’s heads with lies is child abuse.

    What has stopped the EU from coming in and putting a stop t this system?

  21. Hmmm. I suppose some families pretend to be catholic to get their kids into catholic schools BUT one glimmer on the horizon is that many catholic schools no longer vet their incoming students. My kid is well known in the small town where I live and is unbaptised, Im a vocal and commonly known athiest and my wife is a , by heritage, prodestant and practicing Witch/ Pagan/ Wiccan and we were accepted into our wee rural school with no questions asked.
    A more extreme example and this would be 17 years ago.
    My mate who is openly gay and his openly lesbian and high profile gay rights campaigner partner had a kid who is also not being brought up catholic. She was enrolled into the town national school with no issue.
    Im sure some schools are more.. um… picky. But most arent.
    Its a start

  22. I think its a mistake to think that Irish attitudes in general towards religion and religious restrictions have remained constant over the years. As an example I grew up on a small housing estate in Naas, about 20 miles from Dublin. I remember a new couple moved into the estate when I was about 10 (1977 or thereabouts) and immediately prompted gossip since they had different surnames! Perhaps they were unmarried! Even then gossip was the limit of the offense taken and today nobody would be shocked in the slightest that a cohabiting couple were unmarried.
    That said there are some freakingly stupid things in the Irish constitution that are counter to all the advances made in attitudes over the decades.
    “The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His Name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion.”

  23. Sean: True, time will fix it as the old farts fall over one by one. I suppose it IS improving, but that’s a matter of culture and morals changing regardless of the church. It’s just annoying to still have them there. And my kid isn’t baptised either, although if he really wants to at some stage, I’ll happily follow along.

    Stuart: Maybe time to start your own school?

    Larry: It’s a good question and I’ll love to know the answer!

    Sigmund: Urk, is that in the constitution? Personally I don’t respect religion any more than I respect cheese in a tube – respect is earned, not given.

  24. A wasp cannot break wind in Ireland without RTE seeking the parish priest for comment.

  25. If Cathoics were not in control of the education of Catholic children, how could any Catholic be sure that people like paddy K would not have power over defenceless Catholic children?

    • John: Catholics are in control of the education of Catholic children (who these days are not very many) AS WELL AS all other children, using the tax collected from ALL citizens of Ireland. And this is fair and just, in your opinion? What’s to stop Catholics having their own special schools like in other countries?

  26. Larry

    “What has stopped the EU from coming in and putting a stop t this system?”

    The EU has no competence over education.

    “Can someone not take the Irish Government to the European Court over the inequalities of the Irish school system?”

    Which European Court? The European Court of Justice has no competence in educational matters while the European Convention of Human Right protects the right of religion.

    The Catholic Church controls Catholic schools and the Protestant Churches control Protestant schools. What can be wrong with that? Unfortunately, in Northern Ireland the Protestant churches also control State schools. Could the European Court sort that out?

    Catholic schools have a right to teach Catholic dogma. Your insulting description of Catholic dogma as “fairy tales” indicate that you should not send your child to a Catholic school anywhere in the world. Presumably, you have passed on your contempt of Catholicism to your chidlren (as is your right) but why should any Catholic allow his child to share the same classroom as a child who has been encouraged by his father to insult Catholics?

    • John:

      “The EU has no competence over education”

      And the Catholic church HAS a proven competence over education?

      No, WRONG John. The Catholic Church controls ALL state schools (or the vast majority). Or does 98% mean something other than “almost all” to you? And these are STATE schools.

      Yes John I happily insult Catholic dogma as is my right. And I happily blaspheme also – your god is a turnip and your ideas are laughable. So sue me.

      I pass on my contempt of ALL dogmas that encourage not thinking and the formation of pre-made opinions by people lacking the ability to think for themselves and prefer a magic book with vague answers rather than reality. That, John, is very close to mental illness. You can believe whatever you want within the confines of your own head, but passing on that confusion, hatred and fear to children is nothing less than child abuse.

      And, and I said, what’s to stop Catholics from having their own schools than they pay for themselves? Nothing. Except now they control the schools for free and probably need the cash to pay off the sex abuse cases.

      Will I see you again here? I very VERY much doubt it.

      And once again, just for the lawyers: your god is a turnip.

  27. John:

    “The Catholic Church controls ALL state schools (or the vast majority). Or does 98% mean something other than “almost all” to you? And these are STATE schools.”

    Not true. The Catholic Church owns the schools which it controls. Just as the Protestant Churches own the schools which they control.

    “Yes John I happily insult Catholic dogma as is my right. And I happily blaspheme also – your god is a turnip and your ideas are laughable. So sue me.”

    Fine. But why should any Catholic allow his child to be taught by you or by anyone like you? Can you guarantee that all the Eirefolk who think like you have emigrated? Why should any Catholic allow his child to share a classroom with your child? Presumably you have passed on your hatred of Catholics to your children. Can you guarantee that they would not insult or beat up a Catholic classmate? Or make malicious allegations against a Catholic teacher?

    “And, and I said, what’s to stop Catholics from having their own schools”

    We do. What is to stop anti-Catholics of Eire having their own schools? They receive the same level of State funding as Catholic schools or Protestant schools.

    “than they pay for themselves?”

    If secularists object to paying tax to fund Catholic and Protestant schools, why should Catholics pay tax to fund secularist schools?

    “Except now they control the schools for free”

    What WOULD be wrong with that? In the Netherlands there are Calvinist schools 100% funded by the taxpayer and Catholic schools 100% funded by the taxpayer and also State schools 100% funded by the taxpayer – a situation which has existed since 1918. Unfortunately, Faith schools in Eire do not receive 100% State funding but here’s hoping.

    “Will I see you again here? I very VERY much doubt it.”

    Why did you doubt it? I live in Northern Ireland. We Ulster Catholics know how to deal with anti-Catholic bigots.

    “And once again, just for the lawyers: your god is a turnip.”

    An excelelnt reason for Catholics to keep control over the education of Catholics.

  28. paddyK

    “Catholics are in control of the education of Catholic children (who these days are not very many) AS WELL AS all other children, using the tax collected from ALL citizens of Ireland.”

    Not true. Catholics do not control Protestant schools. Nor do they control Educate To-gether schools. Nor do they control most of the Irish medium schools. You did say that Catholics control the education of “all other children”. Please stick to facts.

    Protestants control the education of Protestant children using the tax collected from ALL citizens of Eire. (I resent your use of the word “Ireland” to describe Eire.)

    “What’s to stop Catholics having their own special schools like in other countries?”

    Catholics in Eire do. And also in Northern Ireland.

  29. John:

    I wasn’t aware that the Catholic church actually owns the schools it controls. Can you back this up with some evidence or reference please? Because I can’t find that information anywhere.

    All national schools in Ireland are required to be multi-denominational by law. Did you know this? So, are they?

    I think you are assuming that I am anti-Catholic. I completely am not, I was raised a Catholic. I am equally against all systems of thought that practice self-delusion and illogic and pass that onto their children without their consent. Islam too. I don’t hate Catholics any more than I hate bad shoes, or cold porridge. But I wouldn’t either be happy with cold porridge running a large part of my children’s life.

    It’s not what you think, it’s HOW you think that I don’t like. And school should not be for indoctrination which is, by definition, what Catholic schools do. Or maybe you think it should be?

    I don’t hate Catholics. I try not to hate anybody. Do you hate Protestants? What about gays? Transsexuals? Darwin? Just wondering.

    And let me ask you one more question: Is it OK for a school to allow the children to be removed from maths and science lessons in order for them to help out, for free, at the church? It happens my niece, who is 11, all the time. Unpaid child labour. It’s on a “volunteer” basis, but not really and the kids know it. Is that OK, do you think? Because I don’t.

    And OK then, I relent, your god isn’t a turnip.

  30. John:

    And by the way, you say: “We Ulster Catholics know how to deal with anti-Catholic bigots”

    Putting the serious threat aside, let’s look at the definition: “A bigot is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices”.

    And what are MY prejudices exactly? I have nothing whatsoever against Catholics or ANY religious people, as long as they don’t force their way of life and their moral values on me and mine. Which is what I am objecting to here. Surely you, as an Ulster Catholic, would recognise the desire to not be forced into living under somebody else’s belief system?

  31. John:

    Firstly, in response to your rather bizarre complaint that catholics shouldn’t have to pay for secularist schools: “catholic” and “secularist” are not antonyms. Being a secularist says nothing about what worldview you have, it simply means that you think your worldview is a private matter and not something that should influence the state or institutions like schools and hospitals.

    It is in other words perfectly possible to be a secularist catholic – in fact, I have heard from the mouth of a catholic priest that the catholic church is secularistic in nature. It does not want to be a state church.

    Either way, the point is, a secular school is not an atheist school, which is what I think you think it means. A secular school simply teaches that which we can with reasonable certainty say is “true”, according to science, history, philosophy, mathematics and other human endeavours based on hard work rather than revelation (ok, I admit philosophy is a little dodgy, but then philosophical education is rather severely lacking anyway). And a secular school welcomes children regardless of which faith they or their parents belong or don’t belong to.

    Which brings me to my second point, which is basically challenging your assumption that parents have complete and inalienable rights to make their children believe whatever hogwash they like. I, and many secularists (regardless of religious persuasion!) with me, believe that children should have the right to grow up in a free, open environment, and that they should have the right to make up their own minds about what to believe. It is of course impossible to forbid parents to teach children what they will in their own homes, but any healthy society ought to let children have a secular (NOT ATHEIST!) education where they are exposed to more than one viewpoint.

    In fact it so happens that the UN has a specific document outlining the human rights of children. Children need extra protection because of their vulnerability, and one of their rights is that of FREEDOM OF RELIGION. I am aware that in the declaration of human rights, it says that parents should have the right to choose a school for their children, but personally, I think the child’s right to freedom of thought/opinion/faith is far more important than the parents’ right to influence their child.

    If you don’t think this is the case; if you truly think children are not people to whom one of the most basic human rights ought to apply, then please give me a reasonable argument why.

  32. “Putting the serious threat aside,”

    You tried to bully me with your aggressive remark that I would probably not post again on this thread.

    “And what are MY prejudices exactly? I have nothing whatsoever against Catholics or ANY religious people, as long as they don’t force their way of life and their moral values on me and mine.”

    If that is the case, why the insulting reference to Catholicism and to practising Catholics? You are, of course, entitled to beleive what you believe. Indeed, there is nothing one can do about one’s beliefs just as I cannot help being bald. But Catholics have a right to keep their defenceless little children out of your clutches just as they have a right to keep them away from sex abusers. Your posts indicate that you are an aggressive anti-Catholic, rather than a sincere secularist wishing to assert the rights of secularists.

    If anyone in Eire does not want his child taught in a Catholic school, he has a simple remedy. Do not send the child to a Catholic school. From reading your posts, one would get the impression that the Catholic schools often send out press gangs to snatch non-Catholic children from the streets and drag them kicking and screaming to a Catholic school. I find it hard to reconcile that anti-Catholis smear propaganda with the frequent complaints from Eire secularists about Catholic schools admitting the children of practising Catholics in preference to the children of non-Catholcis. Eamon Gilmore, leader of the Eire Labour party was one of the culprits. He even likened the admisision policies of Catholic schools to “Apartheid”. I admit that he later apologised for that taunt.

    “Surely you, as an Ulster Catholic, would recognise the desire to not be forced into living under somebody else’s belief system?”

    I do indeed and I resent the Protestant churches in Northern Ireland having the statutory right to appoint 50% of the voting governors of every STATE school in Northern Ireland – even of the one STATE school in which all the pupils are the children of Catholics. Please note that by “State schools” I do not mean schools owned by Protestant organisations.

    You Eirefolk do not know what real sectarianism is. In your adopted home, Sweden, it has been only within the last 10 years that they got rid of the constitutional provision that the Head of State must be a Lutheran. While your new neighbours in Norway have a law requiring all Lutherans to bring their children up as Lutherans. And Britain and the Netherlands still require their Heads of State to be Protestant.

    In Eire, Catholic schools did not fall out of the sky. Nor did Protestant schools. There is nothing to stop Eire secularists establishing their own schools. So far as I know, they are entitled to the same level of State funding as Catholic schools and Protestant schools. Indeed, until only a few years ago, Educate Together schools received more State assistance than Catholic schools. They received 100% funding for the costs of sites while Catholics received only 85% funding for sites. Thankfully, that discrimination against Catholics has ended.

    If I visit your home, it must be on your terms. And vice versa. If you send your children to a Catholic school, please respect the ethos of that Catholic school. Sorry to disappoint you, but Catholic schools must be controlled by Catholics in the interests of Catholics.

  33. Well John you sure do like a good discussion and that’s something to be admired!

    I don’t believe I insult practising Catholics anywhere in the article. And I have looked. I do however have a go at the Catholic power structure and some of the traditions. To be fair, I should also have a slap at Islam and everything else too. And I must point out that I also make fun of football fans with the same intensity.

    I respect the rights of people to believe whatever they want personally, but once it goes out over other people, and their own children, then they had better have a very good reason for it.

    You say: “Indeed, there is nothing one can do about one’s beliefs”. Why not, exactly? Isn’t that what evidence and experience are for? I might turn Christian if I have a sufficiently strong experieince, I’m not ruling it out. Why can’t beliefs change?

    I come off as particulalry anti-Catholic because that’s what I grew up with – that was the power structure forced upon me without my consent. So yes, that’s the one I take a swipe at, unfair as it might be. That was just an accident of birth – I don’t like ANY illogical system of “belief” forced upon me. Or upon anybody else. People may choose to do or follow or believe whatever they want, but that’s NOT what Catholic schools are for. They are for making more Catholics, pure and simple. There is little “choice” in such a school, and I know because I went to one.

    “…defenceless little children out of your clutches just as they have a right to keep them away from sex abusers” – Are you SERIOUSLY equating an atheist teacher with a sex-abuser? Seriously?

    “You Eirefolk do not know what real sectarianism is” – And I’m very glad we don’t; and I would like the minimum of power given to all churches in order to keep it that way.

    And you avoid my 2 questions. So here they are again:

    1) Is it OK for a school to allow the children to be removed from maths and science lessons in order for them to help out, for free, at a church?

    2) Do you hate Protestants? What about gays? Transsexuals? Darwin? (And, I add: atheists?)

  34. Paddy K

    “I wasn’t aware that the Catholic church actually owns the schools it controls.”

    I believe you. I really do. You Eirefolk often talk without bothering to ascertain basic facts. I suggest that you get the name and address of the Catholic school nearest your original home in Eire and then write to Land Registry asking who owns it. A fee might be payable.

    You remind me of Conor Cruise O’Brien. In March 1983, in his column in the Irish Times, he attacked Cardinal O’Fiach because ot the Cardinal’s supposed opposition to integrated education. And he cited Queen’s University, Belfast in support of how well integrated education could work. In December 1989 the Fair Employment Agency released its report on its investigation into the staffing of the University. Of 101 Professors, 3 were Catholics – with an even greater sectarian imbalance against Catholics in the clerical and administrative grades and a yet greater imbabalnce against Catholics in the manual grades. The medical faculty had a ration of Protestant to Catholics of 80 to 1. Yes EIGHTY. Queen’s Univeristy was exposed as a bastion of anti-Catholic discrimination. To the best of my knowledge, Conor Cruise O’Brien never appologised for that sectarian taunt. Nor did the Irish Times for publlishing it.

    “All national schools in Ireland are required to be multi-denominational by law. Did you know this? So, are they?”

    Yes. They admit non-Catholics. I would like that law changed. Catholic schools should not be allowed to admit the children of people who are not practising Catholics.

    “I think you are assuming that I am anti-Catholic. I completely am not, I was raised a Catholic.”

    So was Martin Luther. And some of the UVF hitmen. I welcome your anti-Catholic rants? Hopefully, they will harden Catholic resistence to any compromise on Catholic control over the education of their children.

    “And school should not be for indoctrination which is, by definition, what Catholic schools do. Or maybe you think it should be?”

    Leave Catholics to decide how their children should be educated. And if you do not like Catholic schools, heed the advice of the Bible “Come ye out from among them”. I would be happy to have no religion taught in Catholic schools – so long as those schools are controlled only by Catholcis, are staffed only by Catholics and have only the children of practising Catholics. It is the segregation from our enemies which protects Catholics – not the prayers and the doctrine – most of which is a load of codswallop. My defense of Catholic schools is based on very secular concerns.

    “Do you hate Protestants?”


    “What about gays? ”

    I hate those gays (like Senator David Norris) who have questioned the right of Catholics to keep their defenceless little children out of the clutches of anti-Catholic teachers.


    No views on them. I know nothing about them.


    I know not the man.

    “Is it OK for a school to allow the children to be removed from maths and science lessons in order for them to help out, for free, at the church?”

    I do not consider it OK. Hence my advice to your brother or sister to remove your niece from that Catholic school. It might be easier to confront the Headteacher about it.

    “And OK then, I relent, your god isn’t a turnip.”

    What was said was said. And you are entitled to that belief. And you are not the only person in the world who cannot resist the urge to insult Catholics.

  35. John:

    Oh for fuck’s sake, I tried to avoid getting pissed at you, but come the fuck ON. “You Eirefolk”? And what the hell does THAT mean?

    And – you hate protestants? You HATE them? And you dare – you fucking DARE – to preach to me about my “intolerance” for an IDEA and a way of THINKING when you actually admit to hating a huge group of people? ALL of them? Everywhere? Who’s the fucking bigot here, I wonder? Epic fail, as we say.

    Look John, no personal offence here, but take your Catholic vs. Protestant bile to somebody who cares about it, because the sooner we bury this whole fucking issue, the better for the world at large. You want a reason to get rid of religion? Well here it is, staring right at you and maybe one day you’ll see that.

    “You are not the only person in the world who cannot resist the urge to insult Catholics” – Again, not true. Well, slightly true, they ARE a juicy target for ridicule. But I dislike religious thinking, full fucking stop. Which version of the sky fairy you kneel before makes no difference to me. Just do it in the privacy of your own head, is all I ask. And keep other people out of it. Which you won’t, but I can always ask.

    I’m closing this thread now, it’s just making me too depressed. And I think you shot yourself in the foot with that whole “hating Protestants” remark. You make some good points, things I didn’t know or think about, so I will definitely do some homework on this topic.

    Have a good life John. And just so you know, I don’t hate you or anybody in this whole sordid discussion. I’m just sick to death of the whole damned thing. Life’s too fucking short for this.

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