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The Tweeting Bishop and the Minister of Education

October 21st, 2009 · 4 Comments · Irish Politics

There is a nasty little spat underway between the Church of Ireland and the Department of Education over the funding of Protestant schools.

Dr. John Neill, the Bishop of Dublin and Glendalough, has spoken last night about how Protestant schools will be forced out of business due to last years education cuts.  He asserts the removal of funding was not related to finances but a ‘”very determined and doctrinaire effort…to strike at a sector which some officials totally failed to understand.”

The country’s 21 protestant schools used to be treated as non-fee paying schools due to their minority status.  However the resulting special grants for the sector were removed in the last budget. The schools say that they used the extra funding (and staff rations similar to non feepaying schools) to support poorer Protestant families in being able to send their children to schools in line with their ethos.

The Minster said that it’s unconstitutional to continue this funding but he is being respectful to the Church. Families and church leaders have protested the cuts since last year. Yesterday in the Dáil the Minister answered questions on the issue from Deputy Brian Hayes.

When I took away this grant, the Protestant bishops agreed with me that they had €2 million in the education committee’s coffers that was not spent and that was derived from this grant. In the interim period I asked them to use that money to defray any difficulties that exist and come back to me with a scheme that would look at the Dublin and general urban situation where money is more freely available to families with a view to targeting together those rural schools that are experiencing problems. That was last November and we are now in October, and I am still waiting for the Protestant community to come back with its observations.

Enter the tweeting Bishop. Yes I too was rather surprised (and delighted!) to realise that we have a member of the Church of Ireland hierarchy who tweets.

Bishop Paul Colton, Bishop of Cork (previously known to some as he who officiated at David and Victoria’s wedding) has contradicted the Ministers assertion that he was awaiting to hear from the Bishops with proposals. In a series of tweets last night, Colton indicated that the hierarchy had made representations and entered discussions with the Minister and the Department officials.

And later hes said that proposals were submitted in writing to the Minister and all members of the Oireachtas.

Over to you Minister? I’m sure someone in Fianna Fáil can show you how to set up a Twitter account? I’ll be keeping an eye to the Bishop’s account in future. It seems he’s fairly popular in Cork and not just for footballers weddings!

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