YOU have given much coverage to Liz O’Donnell’s ‘lambasting’ of the Catholic Church’s over-involvement in the education of our children, including her statement that the Church “has failed the public.”
Well it did not ‘fail’ in providing an education to my severely autistic son, now aged 21, when the State failed miserably.
Between 1987 and 1996 he had been wholly misplaced in a non-religious, State-run special school for emotionally disturbed children in west Dublin.
Following its burning down in 1996 the children were sent home with nowhere to go.
Who came to the rescue?
The Church, of course, through the generosity of the Daughters of the Cross in Stillorgan, Co Dublin, who additionally opened their doors to the novel concept of the very first autism-specific school in Ireland, where he did very well.
Fast forward to 2003 and post the State’s appeal of Mr Justice Barr’s landmark High Court judgement in the Sinnott case to the Supreme Court, which effectively established 18 as the ‘cut-off’ point concerning the State’s obligation to provide education to autistic children. Accordingly, as the State had directed that funding cease for my son’s continuing placement in Stillorgan, he was given a ‘free transfer’ home with no daycare placement offered by the State.
Who stepped into the breach? Yes, the Church in the shape of the St John of God Brothers, Celbridge, Co Kildare, where he continues to be most happy.
At present, there are two other autistic children aged 14 in Co Kildare whose cases are before the High Court seeking second-level schooling, having finished their ‘special classes’ in primary school. The State had not made provision for post-primary educational requirements.
Who has answered the call? No, not the State-run secondary schools, but the Church again. This time it’s the Salesians in Celbridge.
Who’s going to educate these special needs children ‘down the road’ when there are no more religious left in the schools?
Liz O’Donnell may not have offended Bertie, but she did offend the many religious educating children with special needs and their families.
[His address I'll not include]
God bless all the religious who do His good work here on earth.