Council on Anthropology and Education
Oral Presentation Session
This paper examines the politics of the contemporary divestment from Catholic patronage in Irish national primary education. In recent years Ireland faced some significant events, such as legalisation of gay marriage in 2016 and the repeal of the abortion ban in 2018. Both were achieved through national referendums and won by a landslide. Since 2017 the country has been governed by a Taoiseach, Leo Vardkar, who has a migrant background and is openly gay. These historical milestones are often used as a proof of the softening power of the Catholic Church in the country, and a reflection of the major transformation of the Irish social fabric, specifically the demise of the homogenous Irish-Catholic identity. However, these changes are still not reflected in the Irish Education system: still, more than 90% of public, state-funded schools are owned by Catholic Church and impose ‘Catholic Ethos’ on their students and staff members. Catholic leaders openly admit that schools (not churches) are their main platform for evangelisation. Therefore, this papers examines the politics behind the complicated divestment process and asks how different stakeholders – families, state policymakers, Church representatives and private patron bodies – negotiate their vision of future Irish education system and through that process how do they envision the future of Ireland.