The article was entirely the product of his imagination. None, absolutely none, of what he says has any factual back-up. The tone in which he said the media dealt with the matter is entirely undetectable.
I had a look at the serious media commenting on the Department of Education audit of enrolment policies and found two pieces on it in the 'serious' media prior to Quinn's piece. First up is a very restrained and professional report by Emma O'Kelly on Friday last's news programmes on RTÉ, in which she reported the findings of the audit, accurately mentioning one VEC that was taking on a disproportionate share of immigrant children, as compared to the secondary schools in its catchment area. No mention of educational apartheid appeared anywhere, nor was there any mention of the catholic church. There was, however, in the background an unspoken suggestion that the problem of integration of immigrant children was being made more difficult by the denominational nature of Irish education (remember the Troubles in Northern Ireland?). Possibly to avoid giving offense to people like Quinn, even this obvious point was not explicitly mentioned.
Where "apartheid" was mentioned was in the excellent Irish Times article of the same day (the link will only work if you pay your dues to Geraldine Kennedy). Sean Flynn, the IT education editor and author of the article didn't single out the catholic church either and concentrated on the obvious fact that denominational education will make the task of integration of new immigrants a lot more difficult, if not impossible. Indeed, the headline didn't seem inappropriate, but neither it nor the article under it accused the catholic church in particular of anything at all.
What he did say is that students from better-off families tend to "gravitate" to church-run schools, leaving other categories of students to be dealt with by the rest. This is manifestly true (indeed 'twas ever so, as anyone with two eyes in their head can see) and is backed up by the figures in the Dept of Ed and Sc audit of enrolment numbers.
Incidentally, the Dept's own interpretation of the audit can be found here. It differs very radically from Quinn's completely unfounded gloss on it (i.e. that catholic schools are doing "more than their fair share of immigrant children, and Traveller children, and children with 'special education needs'"). The Audit indicates nothing of the sort. What it does say (according to the Dept's interpretation and mine) is that the enrolment policies of some schools have the effect of excluding certain classes of children from those schools, so that such students have to be catered for exclusively by other schools in within the same catchment area. It is also clear that the majority of such exclusivist schools are catholic (indeed it could hardly be otherwise, catholic schools being the vast majority).
It should be remembered that we're talking only about schools that are financed almost exclusively by the public purse. No fee-paying schools (which also receive large amounts of public money) were included in the audit.
In his usual melodramatic style, Quinn demands an apology from the media for the catholic church for having "hysterically" accused the catholic church of not carrying "its burden" of immigrant children. Nobody has accused it of this. The assertion is a typical Quinnean paper tiger. But he does tell us (as usual, without evidence) that "Catholic primary schools ... are blind as to a child's social background, or educational standard." It is precisely this that the Audit is denying (with evidence). Again as usual, Quinn makes the mistake of thinking saying it makes it so. It doesn't.
Of course, what he's trying to defend against is the charge that catholic schools' behaviour amounts to 'segregation' of students. Yet he admits that:
Catholic primary schools, like other denominational schools, do give preference to children of their own faith. This is why they exist. This is why many parents want them.What the policy implied above could mean other than segregation is very hard to imagine. It's not segregation on the basis of race (but then I haven't heard anyone accuse the church or any school management of racism), but it remains segregation (namely, segregation on the basis of religion). Basically what he's saying is that catholic schools are entirely entitled to select on the basis of religion. He may be right (though this blogger reckons that the insistence on this form of segregation all though the Troubles in Northern Ireland -- and indeed up to this day -- was a huge contribution to the continuance of those troubles).
The state, however, is entitled to dispose of public funds in such a way as to radically reduce segregation, whether of this sort or of any other. Especially when the "many parents" who want segregation are well under 50% while while at least 96% of schools provide this segregation. What Quinn is trying to prevent is precisely this sort of radical de-segregation.
His view should be exposed and his purpose should be resisted. The Archbishop of Dublin has said some encouraging things about the non and inter-denominational education but has really only provided mood music. The Irish catholic church, as owners of the vast majority of schools in the country, should be asked to make a proposal on how the current issue of religious and (de facto) racial segregation of education in Ireland should be dealt with.
The Department of Education and Science should have its own radical proposals in mind. The suggestions made in their letter to education partners on the audit would suggest that they realise something has to be done, though their proposals don't seem to go any further than appointing regional officers responsible for monitoring school enrolment policies and their results.
Given that the public purse has paid for the erection and maintenance of almost all such schools, the Department should drive a far harder bargain than the letter suggests. It should form part of the Department's strategy to correct the huge overrepresentation of denominational schools in Irish education.
One central issue to be negotiated is how ownership of the network of school buildings in Ireland can be gradually made to better reflect who actually paid for them -- i.e. the Irish people. Since the chuch is unlikely to give its bricks and mortar away, and the Dept of Ed is unlikely to have the money to buy them, your blogger fears that this could take a long time to settle.