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Ireland’s Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, has established an expert group to examine how the majority of primary schools will be moved from Catholic Church patronage.
The minister has said he wants more than 50 percent of the Ireland’s schools currently under Church patronage to move to an alternative guardianship.
The Catholic church controls about 90 percent of the State’s 3,200 primary schools.
Professor John Coolahan, from the National University of Maynooth will chair the forum, which will have its first meeting this coming May.
Dr Coolahan will be supported by Fionnuala Kilfeather, former chief executive of the National Parents' Council, and Dr Caroline Hussey, former registrar and deputy president at UCD.
The working group will advice the new minister on a range of issues to ensure that primary schools in Ireland can cater for all religions, as well as the practicalities of how to transfer patronage.
The forum will also include input from various patronage bodies, Irish Primary Principals' Network, the Irish National Teachers Organization and other stakeholders including parents. It will also take submissions from the public.
"This forum is really to discuss the mechanisms and modality whereby a school under patronage of one body – let’s say the Catholic Church - would come to an orderly decision to transfer that patronage to another patron body in a manner that does not damage the educational experience of the children or indeed the operational or working arrangements of the teachers and parents involved,” he told RTÉ radio yesterday.