Catholic Church’s Hold on Schools at Issue in Changing Ireland

Almost all state-funded primary schools — nearly 97 percent — are under church control, and Irish law allows them to consider religion the main factor in admissions. As a practical matter, that means local schools, already oversubscribed, often choose to admit Catholics over non-Catholics.

Source: Catholic Church’s Hold on Schools at Issue in Changing Ireland – The New York Times

Taking this article on face value, as the Times has been known to highlight anti-Catholic angles and gloss over the opposite opinion, this does seem ripe for change.

I’m not Irish and not from Ireland, so I won’t claim to have any solution or real opinion, but I’m curious about the following questions:

  • Is there any notion of private schools in Ireland? How are they funded?
  • If self/parent-funded, is there any tradition of modestly-priced private schools?
  • What percentage of pupils, all things being equal, would choose to attend a Catholic school if it was next-door to a secular school?
  • Is there a place for religious “charter schools”, schools that receive funding from the state but are not the primary schools in the area?

I’m Catholic, with a child in a Catholic school, married to someone on a Catholic school board in the United States. At least within Texas, Catholic schools are generally privately funded—there are some public grants that any school—Catholic or otherwise—can be awarded and there may be school lunch money out there that Catholic schools can tap into, I’m not sure. In any event, virtually all operations are funded privately.

This usually comes from parents, donors to the specific school, the diocese (the geographical grouping of individual churches), and, if attached to a specific parish, a local parish.

In our case, we pay out-of-pocket for our daughter’s education, while still paying property taxes to the local school district. Specifically, we paid approximately 130% of our private school tuition bill to the local school district.1

For Ireland, I’m interested in what something similar would look like, the issues that it would generate, and any type of transitionary model.


  1. Granted, we have five kids. As soon as #2 starts school, the local tax bill would be less.