As any arguing couple will tell you, there’s far more to a roaring fight than simply today’s special.
When that door slams, it’s with the force of an anger that has been brewing for days – sometimes weeks, months, or even years.
In the case of the shock resignation last Friday by Eileen Jackson [pictured, extreme left] as Principal of St Patrick’s National School after 23 years, the issue on the table is a shift in the Church Of Ireland towards prioritising the enrolment of children who are actively involved in the parish and attend church services. This has proven to be a ‘new direction’ that Eileen Jackson can’t live with.
Hence the resignation letter, which quickly sparked a petition to keep Ms Jackson at the head of the school she has been a part of for the past 32 years.
When it comes to minority faith schools, they are legally permitted to discriminate on the basis of religion in their admission policies, but, in the past, many Greystones parents had been drawn to St Patrick’s National School largely because it was always very welcoming to children of all religions. Currently, about 60% of the school’s pupils are Church Of Ireland, with Ms Jackson arguing in her resignation letter that the ethos of the church required it to embrace diversity given its ‘core values of freedom of conscience, tolerance and inclusivity‘.
The growing desire to separate church and education in this country saw the Government pass legislation earlier this month which removes the so-called baptism barrier for entry into Catholic primary schools. Minority faith schools were excluded from this ruling, stated Minister for Education Richard Bruton, to help them maintain the ethos of their schools.
Speaking to The Irish Times this morning, local Social Democrat councillor Jennifer Whitmore argued that all children should have access to State-funded education, regardless of their religion, stating that the recent legislation “did not go far enough when it came to protecting this principle“.
Rev Alan Breen
It’s an issue that we’ve dealt with recently here in Greystones, as parents Peter and Susie Browne struggled to find a school place for their five-year-old son, David, mainly, it would seem, because the little heathen wasn’t baptised.
It would appear that the problems at St Patrick’s National School run deeper than this current crisis though, their troubles appearing to start not long after the arrival of Revd Alan Breen [left] as curate of St Patrick’s Parish. Talking to those close to the church, it was around this time that rules and regulations began to tighten up, as old staff members were reportedly pushed out for a new regime. Inclusivity was out, we’re told, and evangelism was now in, a battle-cry that continued after Breen was redeployed to Kill O’ The Grange in Dublin, the rector, Canon David Mungavin – and his good lady wife, Pauline – having taken over the Greystones outpost when Edgar Swann retired in 2009.
Also, according to one ex-member, within the last two years, six of the church’s stalwart members have resigned from St Patrick’s over the new direction being taken. The church has insisted that this is not the case, and that no one has resigned, although it may be the term rather than the departures they’re objecting to.
And let’s not forget the much-loved Fearghal MacGrinna, who resigned as Vice Principal under what some felt was a cloud of incense, and who is currently back in his native Donegal.
Also worth noting is the fact that Ms Jackson is currently away on holidays, and so, was unavailable for comment. Smart woman. Canon David Mungavin did issue a response today to her resignation though [right].
For spiritual – and legal – reasons, hard to list the stories here of the growing disconnect between St Patrick’s Church and those Greystonians who have been turned away from its door in recent years, but it’s clear that a change in its approach to school admission has to be addressed. Parents having to attend church for over a year, just to secure a school place – whether in St Patrick’s National School or Temple Carrig School – and then, in many cases, promptly abandoning that Sunday chore as soon as their loved one is walking through those school gates. A church move that hardly makes for good religion.
We also hear murmurs about large chunks of church change sitting in other people’s accounts, but, St Patrick’s have been adamant that this is not true.
Here’s hoping common sense, and common decency, will prevail, and that Eileen Jackson can be convinced to stay at the school she clearly loves. Over to you, God. Wherever you are…
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