Dáil debates

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Education (Amendment) Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


5:00 pm

Photo of Frank FaheyFrank Fahey (Galway West, Fianna Fail)

I welcome this Bill. It is long overdue. I welcome the fact that the VECs are becoming involved in primary education. Whatever we may say about the VEC system it has been successful in the administration of education in localities throughout the country. The necessity for rationalisation has been long overdue and I welcome that development.

We should recognise the success we have had in this country in regard to patronage in education, in Catholic primary schools, the Educate Together system, gaelscoileanna and schools which have a Catholic ethos but a multi-denominational approach to education. We should not let this opportunity go without recognising the wonderful work the Catholic Church in this country has done in primary education through the years. It is interesting to note that when we received freedom in this country the founding fathers of all parties decided education was the single most important investment that the young State should make, notwithstanding the fact that there was not much money.

The success of the country and economy is down to the fact that the founding fathers of this State decided that primary education was the bedrock of a successful society and community. There is little doubt that the principles of the three Rs - reading, writing and arithmetic - have been the fundamental foundation of the success we have had as a nation in attracting multinational industries and becoming the high-tech society which we are today. We should acknowledge that, as well as the role the Catholic Church played when the State did not have the resources to develop a primary education system.

Now that the Catholic Church is getting out of the patronage of education we should acknowledge the many religious priests, nuns and brothers who did a wonderful job of work through the years. Unfortunately, the work of many great people has been blighted by the activities of a few and that is what has come to the fore. It is all the more reason why this House should acknowledge the wonderful work done and the great sacrifice made by so many religious, priests, nuns and brothers to the foundation of education in this country before and since we became a free State.

Given also that there are so few religious left, this Bill is overdue. The Department of Education and Skills has been lucky to get away with what it has, in terms of the diversity that has happened very quickly in our society since 2000. It is worthy of note that in one new school in Dublin all the enrolments comprised children from communities outside Ireland; there was no Irish child in the school. That such a thing could happen is a tragedy. Thankfully, it was arrested and the situation no longer exists.

When I was Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform I attended a number of events in the early part of this decade in Denmark, Holland and so on and saw at first hand how they got it so wrong, in terms of not developing diversity within their communities. It is interesting to note that it was not the people who arrive in those countries as immigrants who caused the problem. Rather, it was their sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters-----


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