The Shaping of Ireland’s Faith-Based School System and the Contemporary Challenge to It

  • John CoolahanEmail author


This chapter explores in particular the alignment with national priorities and the challenges of identity, beliefs and commitments of faith-based schools. Coolahan’s study of Ireland describes how one nation is endeavouring to move from having a predominantly single denomination faith based national education system to a nation with a system inclusive of multi-denominational and secular considerations in its education system. Ireland presents an interesting study of the effort to re-cast a faith-based system to become a more pluralist one in contemporary society. Ireland’s state-supported primary school system, established in 1831, was planned to be an inter-denominational one. However, in a society with deep political and religious divisions, this did not prove possible. While de jure the system remained formally inter-denominational, the de facto position was that, by 1870, it had become predominantly denominational, with some regulatory safeguards against proselytism. The patronage and trusteeship of schools rested with religious authorities. The faith-based character of the system became more intensified following political independence, in 1922, and was formally declared to be denominational in the Rules issued in 1965. The chapter examines how the system was shaped, and tracks the steps to reverse the policy with the emergence of the “Educate Together” movement in the 1970s. Even though the problems posed by the faith based system for non believers were highlighted by responsible public agencies in the early 1990s, the 1998 Education Act did not address the issue. The chapter gives a detailed treatment of the current attempt by government to re-cast the system. Government sought to ensure that the provision of schooling, which is at present largely denominational, could become more inclusive and answerable to the needs of all citizens in a state which is becoming more multi religious and more secular. The National Forum on School Patronage, set up in June 2011, has been a major catalyst in charting a way forward.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National University of Ireland MaynoothDublin 4DublinIreland

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