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Government educational policies failing new Irish – Doherty

3 September, 2007

Speaking this morning Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Pearse Doherty slammed the Fianna Fáil led coalition government for failing to address the educational emergency of class sizes and lack of school places and criticised the policy of religious discrimination by some schools.

The Donegal Senator said, "As young pupils are failing to secure school places for the new term due to overcrowding and lack of school facilities, the onus is on the government to act immediately to resolve this educational crisis. Sinn Féin has consistently called on the government to implement our party's educational policies to address the issue of class sizes by substantially increasing funding per pupil at pre-school and primary level and upgrading and constructing more school facilities in addition to training new teachers. The government should introduce legislation to ensure that fully resourced educational facilities are included in every major development plan.

"With the current crisis we are now witnessing crude discriminatory policies being adopted by some religious schools that are actively discriminating against students on religious grounds. With approximately 98 per cent of schools being run by religious orders the Catholic Church has a substantial responsibility to ensure that discrimination has no place in the provision of education.

"It has emerged that, in some areas, increasing numbers of students of different religions are being literally turned away at the school gates. Sinn Féin has been to the fore in tackling religious discrimination for decades, most notably in the Six Counties when Catholics were on the receiving end and we will not tolerate the current scenario.

"Ireland is becoming a multi-cultural and diverse society and the new Irish should be allowed to integrate and practice their own cultures on our shores without the threat of being excluded from our educational system due to their religious background. The fact that the Catholic Church has such an influence on schools and their enrolment policies should be challenged to ensure equality in education provision for all children including our new Irish brothers and sisters.

"The problem is not that there are too many schoolchildren, but is instead that there are too few schools. The government should be planning to facilitate population growths in areas and to meet that demand. The new Irish children should not be made scapegoats for the failed educational policies of this government." Críoch

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