Ireland to scrap provision allowing Catholic Church to make school appointments

Ireland's Department of Education is planning to do away with provisions that allow the Catholic Church to appoint nuns and priests as teachers or principals in their chosen schools, a practice which bypasses the country's employment laws.

(WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Oscar76)St. Flannan's College, one of the oldest extant school buildings in Ireland. Front of the college. 17 March 2010.

Two years ago, the Catholic Church retained its right to designate priests, nuns, brothers and monks as employees in schools without going through interviews and other employment processes. However, a representative from the Department of Education told RTE News that the minister had already asked his officials to correct the situation and make sure that the school positions were occupied through open competition.

The said provision also allows the church to remove appointed teachers and principals at its discretion. The Department of Education reportedly thinks that the Church used the provision for the placement of "a handful" of principals in certain schools in the last few years.

In June, the Bishop of Killaloe, Fintan Monahan, upset a number of parents and school staff after he appointed a priest named Fr. Ignatius McCormack as the principal of St. Flannan's Diocesan College in Ennis. Critics told The Irish Times that they were bothered over the priest's placement without advertisement or open competition.

"Everybody expected it to be advertised, but instead they were presented with a fait accompli," a source told the Times.

In addition, the source said the announcement of the previous principal's departure triggered speculations about the possible successor. Since the post was worth 100,000 Euros, people assumed the position would be advertised.

One critic said the manner of Fr. McCormack's appointment "showed a lack of respect" for St. Flannan's staff. Some also expressed concern over Bishop Monahan's willingness to address people's concerns about the issue after the announcement and not before.

A spokesman for Bishop Monahan told the Times that the Joint Managerial Body was consulted before Fr. McCormack was appointed as principal of St. Flannan's. Since there were no objections from the board of management and the school trustees, the appointment pushed through.