School patronage 'will become political issue before General Election'

A former ministerial advisor has said that he expects school patronage to become a political issue ahead of the General Election.

His comments come after the Archbishop of Dublin defended the rule prioritising baptised children in Catholic schools.

Diarmuid Martin was responding to claims by a mother at the weekend that her four-year-old son was denied a place in a number of schools in south Dublin because he was not baptised.

Dr Martin also criticised the divestment process for being too slow.

John Walshe was a special advisor to former Education Minister Ruairi Quinn.

He says it is not in anyone's interest for so many schools to remain under the control of the Catholic church.

"I think this is going to become a political issue, coming up to the next election I'm certain that there'll be a bigger demand for greater choice," he said.

"There's also pressure coming from various UN bodies which have criticised the slow pace of change.

"I think it's in the church's own interest that it should divest more - it's not really in their interest that they have so many schools under their control."

A campaign to Repeal Section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act which allows for religious schools to prioritise baptised children in their enrolment policies has secured over 11,000 signatures so far.

Multi-denominational group Educate Together has described the ‘Catholic first’ enrolment policies in the majority of Irish schools as "an unacceptable situation in a modern democratic republic".

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