Letters page, Irish Times, March 17th 2011:
Madam, – The establishment of a forum on school patronage by the Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, is to be welcomed (March 12th).
However, even before it starts, it is disquieting to read that the Minister feels it necessary to deny that the Labour Party has a secular agenda. We must reject the historical mental conditioning that has created the notion that a secular society is in some way an illegitimate aspiration.
A secular State school system, where parents are free to give their children the religious ideas they wish in their homes and in their places of worship, without impinging on the justifiable wishes of those who do not want their children exposed to dogma that is presented as irrefutable fact, is very much to be desired.
A secular agenda is not an atheistic agenda. It simply makes room in the spectrum of belief for those who have no religion. It is nothing short of intolerance that this has not been the case in our State-funded primary schools up to the present time.
The forum on school patronage should have, high up in its terms of reference, the possibility of getting rid of the patronage system altogether and ensuring that our schools are placed directly under the control of the Department of Education. This is what, after a great deal of anguish, we are moving towards in relation to our health system and its supervising government department. –
SEAMUS McKENNA, Farrenboley Park, Windy Arbour, Dublin 14