'Christmas has not been cancelled': Education Minister open to writing to schools over 'inaccurate' claim

Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh

Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh has said he is open to the idea of writing to the schools who claimed this week that Christmas would be cancelled if their school was divested.

Department of Education officials have already rejected claims that pupils in Catholic schools where there is a change in patronage will be prevented from celebrating religious events such as Christmas.

It follows a row in north Dublin where the department has requested that one Catholic school out of eight in the Malahide-Portmarnock-Kinsealy area of the county divest its patronage.

The move is part of a wider plan to increase access to multidenominational schools for parents on the basis that 90% of primary schools remain under Catholic patronage.

However, a number of Catholic schools in the north Dublin area are resisting any attempt to divest their patronage.

The parents’ association of St Oliver Plunkett’s School in Malahide has warned that the loss of the school’s religious ethos could lead to the cancellation of nativity plays and carol services.

Mr McHugh said that he is open to writing to the schools even though his Department is not involved formally at this stage.

“Christmas has not been cancelled. I would encourage that information should be factual.”

He said he had a very positive meeting with Bishops about the issue of divestment and he “wants proper information getting out. Communities should take ownership of the model they want.

“I’m always open to change, but I am very concerned that the information getting out there is not factual. Schools still have the power to make decisions. We don’t want to create fear.

“People should not be afraid. People feel they are losing something, that ‘Dia Duit’ will go, that will not happen.

“Fear and inaccurate information is not helpful.”

Mr McHugh said that the claim by a school in Artane that grandparents would not be allowed be involved in schools was inaccurate. “That’s not the case. Grandparents are very much part of schools and it’s important that that continues.”

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