Independent TD Clare Daly was the guest speaker at a public meeting in The Mill Theatre in Dundrum on July 11, where the prospect of non-religious schools in Ballinteer and Dundrum was discussed.
The independent TD was invited to speak by Ballinteer resident Brian Leeson, who was the Together For Yes agent for the Rathdown constituency. Leeson is also the national chairperson of Eirigi, which hosted the Dundrum meeting.
Speaking after the event Clare Daly said: “The people of Rathdown are to be commended for voting YES in such huge numbers on May 25. The fact that over 76% of voters in this constituency voted to repeal the 8th sent out a hugely positive message to women and girls about their place in our society.”
Speaking in relation to the role of the Churches in the education system, Daly said: “Over 90% of all schools in this state are still under the patronage of the Catholic or other churches.
“In many areas parents have no option but to send their children to a Catholic ethos school, even when they themselves are of a different religion or of no religion at all.
“This situation is compounded by years of chronic under-investment in the education system generally. The right to a secular education must be vindicated, in parallel to the government providing proper funding for school buildings and staff, which it has not done to date.”
Speaking in relation to the lack of non-religious schools in Ballinteer and Dundrum, Brian Leeson said: “The 2016 Census recorded that 30% of people in the Dundrum Local Electoral Area, which includes Ballinteer, are non-Catholic.
“It’s safe to assume that the percentage of non-Catholics is even higher among younger people who have children of school-going age. The current mix of schools does not reflect that reality.
“In Ballinteer, there are three Catholic-ethos primary schools and one ‘Christian’ ethos secondary school.
“The three Catholic-ethos primary schools have an intake capacity of up to 240 children per year, but there is currently not a single non-Catholic primary or secondary school place in Ballinteer.
“The English-language Ballinteer Educate Together is currently stuck in Churchtown, without any permanent school buildings in the Ballinteer community it was established six years ago to serve.
“In Dundrum, there is one Protestant-ethos and a number of Catholic-ethos primary schools. The only non-religious primary school in the new Irish-language Gaelscoil na Fuinseoige.
“It’s time for some joined-up thinking in relation to the provision of primary and secondary education in Dundrum and Ballinteer. In the short term, there is a pressing need to establish an Irish-language non-religious primary school in Ballinteer and an English-language non-religious primary school in Dundrum.
“A similar approach needs to be taken to the provision of second level education across the area, to ensure that families have access to a local non-religious school.
“These new non-religious schools can be brought into existence through the divestment of schools that are currently under religious control, or through the establishment of entirely new schools.
“Whichever option is chosen, it needs to happen sooner rather than later.”