Catholic Bishops have veto in rigged divestment process for schools

Atheist Ireland has obtained, under the Freedom of Information Act, a letter that the Catholic Bishops sent to Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI), regarding religion in Community National Schools. The letter is dated 15th February 2017. We have published it below.

We have previously written about the conflict of interest that the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) have in managing the divestment process. You can find that article here:

Educate Together is correct about the ETBs conflict of interest in managing the school divestment process

Now we can cast more light on how the Catholic Bishops are feeding into that conflict of interest.

Catholic Bishops say they must ‘approve’ course

Based on the letter from February 2017, the Bishops were not happy with the Goodness Me Goodness You (GMGY) course in Community National Schools (CNS), because it had changed over the years.

According to the letter sent to the ETBI, the Goodness Me Goodness You course did not constitute a viable programme for faith nurturing and sacramental education.

Since then, we have been told that an ‘agreement’ has been reached between the Catholic Bishops and the ETBs, which means that sacramental preparation will be outside schools hours, and faith nurturing will be part of the Goodness Me Goodness You course.

But the word ‘agreement’ seems a euphemism for what the letter from the Bishops says. The Bishops do not talk about seeking ‘agreement’. They talk about the Bishops ‘approving’ the ETB proposals for faith nurturing and sacramental preparation in State schools.

Now the Bishops have got what they wanted, and they have approved the revised ETB proposals. The ETBs, who are also managing the divestment process, will now be applying to be Patron of these schools.

The Catholic Bishops have no similar ‘agreement’ with Educate Together, in relation to the divestment process, to ensure that Educate Together’s Learn Together course meets with their ‘approval’ regarding faith nurturing and sacramental preparation.

Freedom of Information and Kildare and Wicklow ETB

According to the letter from the Bishops, Dr. Keyes is engaging with them in relation to the Goodness Me Goodness You course. Dr. Keyes is the CEO of Kildare and Wicklow ETB.

Atheist Ireland has previously used the Freedom of Information Act to get information from Kildare and Wicklow ETB in relation to the Community National Schools.

Kildare and Wicklow ETB have refused us the information we sought, and we have appealed that decision to the Information Commissioner.

We have appealed in the public interest, and have already made two submissions. If we lose this it will mean that we cannot access information in the public interest on the CNS.

You can find our Submissions here AI FOI Appeal KWETB-4

The Divestment process is rigged

The Divestment plan as outlined by the Department of Education in January 2018 States that:

“Where the need for a transfer to a multidenominational patron is identified by surveys, the existing landowner, in cooperation with the local school community, will decide what multi-denominational patron to transfer to.”

Of course, the Catholic Bishops are going to prefer the Community National Schools, and divest to them, because they already have given ‘approval’ for the ETBs revised proposals for faith nurturing and sacramental preparation in State schools.

The Catholic Bishops will not divest to Educate Together, even if parents want this, because the Learn Together course is not faith nurturing and because they have not sought and got the ‘approval’ of the Bishops.

The Catholic Bishops and the ETBI have been meeting, in order that the Catholic Bishops may ‘approve’ the role of religion in State schools. Both these bodies are private bodies and do not come under the FOI Act. This means that the public cannot get information from them under the FOI Act in the public interest.

The Letter from the Catholic Bishops to ETBI

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