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Irish cardinal raps politician's negative comments on Northern Ireland's Catholic schools

Catholic World News - October 22, 2010

Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh has criticized a leading government official in Northern Ireland for suggesting that Catholic schools create “a benign form of apartheid.”

Peter Robinson, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, had made his negative comments about denominational schools in general. But since the overwhelming majority of denominational schools in Northern Ireland are Catholic his remarks seemed clearly aimed at Catholic schools.

Cardinal Brady said that the remarks would unfortunately set back the cause of reconciliation in Northern Ireland. Robinson’s criticism, he said, would give rise to “distrust and suspicion” among Catholics in particular, who would question why they “are being told that they should accept a lower standard of rights and freedoms than they would have if they lived in Britain, Scotland or the south of Ireland.”

The cardinal said that Robinson’s call for an end to denominational schools, and the creation of a single government schools system, constituted “a stark warning to all those who respect diversity and the rights of parents." Irish Catholic leader David Quinn pointed out that the denominational schools came into existence for a reason that can be easily understood and appreciated today:

Why are there so few Protestant schools? The reason is because in the past State-run schools were, in effect, Protestant. This being so, Catholics naturally wanted their own system of schools.
Today, Quinn continued, many Catholics once again look to Catholic schools to provide a reliable education for their children, at a time when the public schools often promote indifference or even hostility toward faith.

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