Ruairi Quinn is a politician of substance, whether you agree or disagree with his views. This is why a suggestion he has just made with regard to Church-run primary schools is so out-of-character in its barminess.
Quinn, Labour’s education spokesman, notes that the Church has paid only €128 million towards the Redress Board which is compensating former residents of industrial schools, but the total cost of the compensation will be around €1.2 billion.
He thinks the Church, in the interests of fairness, should hand over to the State the land titles of lots of its primary schools free of charge. In this way, it will have effectively contributed much more to the total cost of compensation than the agreed €128 million.
However, what we need to appreciate is that the agreement between the Church and the State concerning the Redress Board was actually not between the Church, per se, and the State, but between 18 religious orders and the State. The religious orders do not run the vast majority of our primary schools, the bishops do, and the bishops were not party to the redress deal.
Therefore, if Ruairi Quinn is genuinely interested in fairness, he should not favour penalising one group for the sins of another group. Contrary to popular belief, the Church is not a monolith and should not be treated or regarded as such.