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sunday morning and I'm feeling sweary...

It's only lunchtime and two things in the Observer have seriously pissed me off. One is Nicola Byrne's piece on the possibility of British hunters coming over here in their poxy pink coats, in which she tells us that "proponents of hunting in Ireland fear it may not be so easy to put off mainland animal rights activists." Mainland? What fucking mainland? Mainland Europe? Oh, do you mean that completely separate country in the east? Well, call it "Britain", then. It's not our "mainland". And frankly, I expect better from a Ireland correspondent for a supposedly liberal paper.

Then later, in the same section, Henry McDonald (who is always annoying, and who doesn't seem to realise that as the paper's chief Irish correspondent he might like to write about the large section of the island that is not Northern Ireland once in a while) writes about the standard of living in Dublin, and interviews a Dutch man who is moving to Belfast because Dublin is so expensive. Fair enough, of course, but then the interviewee says:

"If you want a good school in Dublin you have to pay thousands of pounds per year, while in the North it is free. Lots of my friends in the South feel exactly the same.'"

So Mr Loopmans, by "the North", do you mean "North Dublin"? Because if you want a decent state school, just move to Drumcondra. I'm fed up with this offensive myth that to get a decent education in Dublin you've got to pay for it. Yes, on the southside, many of the good schools are feepaying (although of course, there are good state schools there too). But the northside contains just one prominent feepaying schools, and that's Belvedere, in the inner city. Many of the schools on the southside (and Belvedere) which stayed feepaying did so partly because of parental snobbery, while their equally middle-class counterparts on the northside apparently didn't care so much about the social cachet of paying several grand a year so their kid can be on a poncey rugby team. My school, like barsine's and alices's schools, were all once feepaying, and could have remained so, but they didn't. When I was a kid I had a choice of at least three excellent state secondary schools within walking distance of my house, and a short bus ride would have given me access to several more (including barsine's former educational establishment)*. All my schoolfriends and indeed most of my year went to good universities (two of my classmates - not just my year, but my class - got Schol when we went to Trinity) and we did so without paying for a secondary education. And we did Latin, too!

In conclusion: you're wrong, Mr Loopmans, you snobby wanker. And you would have found this out if you'd, I dunno, ever met someone from Raheny.

* The fact that the majority of these schools were nominally Catholic is another matter, of course, but so are the majority of schools on the southside.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 21st, 2004 06:15 am (UTC)
I can think of three more decent enough schools off the top of my head, all of which I could walk to! And there are more a bus ride or train ride away (I suspect one or two may be ones you refer to yourself).

I feel a bit guilty actually, because I went to a fee paying school on the southside...I can almost hear the "smoked salmon socialist" jibes ;-)
Nov. 21st, 2004 06:47 am (UTC)
and my fees were all of 80 quid voluntary contribution, despite living in the very heart of Southside fee paying schools - Blackrock. (Though I have heard that the enrolement has halved since I was there - apparently parents of girls are more willing to pay fees than they were in my day.)

It's weird, my perception is that middle class parents are much more likely to pay fees in the UK than in Ireland.
Nov. 21st, 2004 06:50 am (UTC)
I think nearly all schools have that voluntary contribution thing - mine did, but it was £60. Were you in Sion Hill? I don't think any of the Dominican Schools are fee-paying (I went to the-school-formerly-known-as-Eccles-Street, now just known as Dominican College Griffith Avenue).
Nov. 21st, 2004 06:56 am (UTC)
Yup. Of course both my siblings went to fee paying schools but I'm 32 and over that now :)

I seem to remember the Dominicans in Ireland started out wanting to teach the daughters of the Catholic middle class, rather than the rich, so it would be a big change for them to ever charge fees.

Google tells me[1] there are now 350 at SH rather than the 600 odd I was used to. It's a pity, it's a good school and spent a fair amount of time and energy on encouraging girls to do science and maths, which can only be a good thing. I wasn't very happy there, but I doubt I would have been happy in many Irish secondary schools in the 80s :)

[1]http://www.skoool.ie/skoool/parents.asp?id=1567 is the reference. Interesting. I didn't realise there was talk of bringing 3rd level fees back.
Nov. 22nd, 2004 04:53 am (UTC)
It's weird, my perception is that middle class parents are much more likely to pay fees in the UK than in Ireland.

In the UK (as in Ireland, judging by this discussion below) it depends enormously on whereabouts in the country you are. As someone who's middle class but went to state school, I'm always slightly confused by articles or people who assume that all middle-class children go to private schools. For my parents and my parents' friends, private school is raised as an option, but all the local state schools are pretty decent so it doesn't seem worth the money, the upheaval or the 45 minute daily commute.
Nov. 21st, 2004 06:50 am (UTC)
You're absolutely right - it's wank. That said, is Mr. Loopmans a Protestant, seeing as he is Dutch? If he is, I can understand - though still condemn - his perception. There are only two non-fee-paying Protestant secondary schools that I can think of, and unfortunately, there's still a perception among some non-Catholics that Catholic schools provide indoctrination as much as education. I'm speaking as someone whose parents would have paid as much as they could spare to keep her out of a Catholic school - a ridiculous attitude, but it's there.
Nov. 21st, 2004 07:08 am (UTC)
Are you counting my old school, Mount Temple among them? Theoretically it's C of I, but not a word of officially promoted C of I religious views do I seem to remember from my time there. The chaplain was indeed C of I, but didn't seem to like talking about religion much, while the RE teachers tended to be scary fundies who did more damage to their cause than they ever realised.

I was sent there because it was free and didn't require a uniform, rather than because of any religious affiliations.
Nov. 21st, 2004 07:13 am (UTC)
Yes, there and Newpark. I think most of the erstwhile Protestant schools now try and maintain a careful balance between maintaining some relationship to a Protestant church, and multidenominationalism. Does that correspond to your experience?

My school wasn't particularly religious either, though it was affiliated to a C of I church down the road and the RE teachers were all Protestant. I don't think my parents would have wanted a heavy-handed Protestant indoctrination, either, but they didn't want me taught by nuns first of all.
Nov. 21st, 2004 07:20 am (UTC)
Juts out of interest, did your parents ever actually look at any nominally Catholic schools? Even the concept of being "taught by nuns" was totally outdated by the time we were going to school (apart from the principal, there were only two nuns teaching in our entire school when I was there, and they were both in their early 60s. Both had retired by the time I left. And I think that was pretty much the norm in "convent" schools in the late '80s).
Nov. 21st, 2004 08:12 am (UTC)
To be honest, I don't think they did. But this was 1980, I suppose, before ecumenism had become widespread and Irish/British relations had improved.
Nov. 21st, 2004 08:20 am (UTC)
1980? Heavens, was your primary school fee-paying too? I thought there were plenty of state CofI primary schools - there were two near us!
Nov. 21st, 2004 08:38 am (UTC)
No, it wasn't feepaying - it was that you "had to get your name down early for a good school." You know the kind of snobbery.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 12:18 am (UTC)
I went to a crap state school in South Dublin and always wished, not that I'd gone to a fee-paying school, but that I could have gone to one of the several perfectly good state schools in South Dublin (even if they are not quite as abundant as on the northside).

I do take the religion point, but there are too many Catholic or ex-Catholic parents in Dublin moaning in exactly the same way, just because they won't even consider a state school - for them 'good school' means 'school full of posh people like us without any povvo types to remind us or our children that there is a real world out there'. (Though of course poverty isn't any more real than wealth, just more widespread). I have heard people I know complain about how expensive it to bring up three children in Dublin, when they are sending the said children to St. Andrews and Mt. Anville. That's a choice, so the parents have no right to complain about it, but these people seem never to have considered the option of a state school, and look surprised and disbelieving if you mention it. Gah! It's one of my pet gripes.

Perhaps unfairly, I blame the Irish Times for having so many articles in their Education Section where there is clearly an unquestioning assumption that everyone's little Persia or Conor goes to a fee-paying school. A real proper thought-provoking newspaper would actually discuss the question of why people do this. Snobbery, of course, is one reason, and the lack of a decent number of low-religion state schools is another.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 04:37 am (UTC)
I have heard people I know complain about how expensive it to bring up three children in Dublin, when they are sending the said children to St. Andrews and Mt. Anville. That's a choice, so the parents have no right to complain about it, but these people seem never to have considered the option of a state school, and look surprised and disbelieving if you mention it. Gah! It's one of my pet gripes.

Yes, mine too. I'm very anti-private education on principle and I get genuinely angry with people who think it's the norm. I remember someone in college - who went to glitzfrau's school - casually remarking "but, I mean, everyone goes to private school, don't they?" - to the annoyed amazement of me and barsine. I find it bizarre that it's so localised as well - I mean, any northside parents who are just as middle class as the average Andrew's parents are much, much more likely to send their kids to a state school. Although I did know one girl from Glasnevin whose parents sent her to Loreto on the Green instead of the local state because her dad said he "didn't want her going to school with girls who'd grow up to be hairdressers". Sadly, his daughter was so stupid that she'd have been lucky to be allowed sweep up after a hairdresser. And of course if she'd gone to my school, she could have shared a class with future barristers, psychologists, academics and, yes, hairdressers, all without paying out thousands a year.

And, although it is my sometime employer and I should be writing a piece for it right now, I think the Times is partly to blame for encouraging this delusion that "everyone" sends their kids to private school. This is partly because most of the people who write for it - or at least edit it - do seem to live in a freakish south Dublin bubble which they assume everyone - from their readers to their writers - shares. I mean, I'm not exactly a working class heroine, being from an artsy Dublin middle class family and having a Trinity degree, but I have not led even vaguely as socially insulated a life as the average I**** T**** editor.
Nov. 21st, 2004 07:36 am (UTC)
The then headmaster told me to my face that he attended church a couple of times a year purely because of the ethos of the school, but that he himself had no religious belief and was merely keeping up appearances. (I was but a wee child at the time, his daughter's best friend and fiercely on the side of all the history teachers - he taught Renaissance history - so I was safe to say such things to :-) The school was definitely multidenominational, with a leaning towards the madder sort of teacher from all extremes - I distinctly remember my class of weirdos, punks and atheists going (metaphorically, I assure you, even though we were teenage Northsiders) for the throat of a militantly atheist teacher who had derided one shy girl's meek statement that she was Born Again. The balance seemed to be more in the pupils' view that Religious/Non-Religious people were fine as long as they were our R/Non-R people.

There were at least 14 different flavours of religion by the time I was in Upper Sixth, all of which seemed to get along just fine. And plenty of non-religious pupils too, of course.
Nov. 21st, 2004 07:58 am (UTC)
Heavens, I actually always thought Mount Temple was non-denominational rather than affiliated with any one church - I didn't know it was "officially" CofI. Most people I knew who went there were technically Catholics.

Anyway, it was one of our school options too - my parents were keen to offer us the chance of going to a co-ed school. But we all said no, something we kind of regretted a few years later!

What girls' school did most people in your corner of Drumcondra go to, by the way? My school (both in its Eccles Street and Griffith Ave incarnations) and Mary's in Glasnevin are the nearest, aren't they?
Nov. 21st, 2004 08:17 am (UTC)
You're right, it would be a slightly different issue if he were a practicing Protestant - but if that was the real isue, surely he'd have actually said "non-Catholic" schools?

I do find this conviction that Catholic secondary schools are somehow brainwashing camps rather bewildering. I can understand the objection to primary schools - where pupils may be prepared for First Communions and Confirmations, although of course non-Catholics kids don't attend those classes - and I understand people wanting their children to attend a school which provided religious instruction in their own denomination (which of course would rule out a non-denominational school too). But you'd think that just asking a few parents of children in the average convent would show that religious instruction is kept to the barest of bare minimums in most places, and that non-Catholics are certainly not compelled to attend religion classes (which weren't even based on Catholicism anyway, in our place). The only thing that was specifically Catholic was the fact that when we left school, there was a Graduation Mass - but I don't think one mass in five years counts as indoctrination.

Of course, I think non-denominational schools should be the standard, anyway. But until they are, the Catholic ones are pretty ecumenically-minded.
Nov. 21st, 2004 08:30 am (UTC)
Hmm, SH was more religious than that. I mean, not massively, but more. There was always at least 2 masses a term, non-catholics weren't allowed to excuse themselves from religion classes and every class began with a Hail Mary. Which would annoy me as a parent now cause it would seem like such a waste of time.
Nov. 21st, 2004 08:48 am (UTC)
Wow, really? There was the odd school mass, but it wasn't compulsory (the only one which was really a big deal was the graduation one, because that was part of your whole leaving-school-ceremony). And I'm shocked that non-Catholics had to go to religion classes. In our place, they just got a free class and went to the library. Were your religion classes actually, well, religious? Because ours certainly weren't.
Nov. 21st, 2004 07:15 am (UTC)
thats very interesting about the use of the term 'mainland'- a strange post-EU devolopement? maybe some journalists willmhave ireland as europe's taiwan? heh.
Nov. 21st, 2004 07:21 am (UTC)
No, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the EU and everything to do with colonialism. That journalist meant "Britain", not continental Europe. Unionists and some ignorant/bigoted British people refer to Britain as Ireland's mainland.
Nov. 22nd, 2004 01:31 am (UTC)
Hee! The Guardian really knew how to push our buttons yesterday. I was innocently eating toast when Eoin started snorting and saying 'MAINLAND???', and a short time later I came across Mr Loopman and started muttering, 'If by "Ireland" you mean "South Dublin" -- what about North Dublin, or, oh, perhaps THE REST OF THE COUNTRY!'

They also annoyed me last week by saying that the poor in Dublin shopped in Lidl & Aldi (the poor do shop there, but so do I, as do my parents) and that the celtic tiger cubs were swanning around Zara & H&M. Since I shop in Zara as well as the cheap german supermarkets, I didn't feel that this illustrated the huge divide in Irish society too well, and also (apologies for shouting, but we've been waiting so long) WE DON'T HAVE H&M YET!
Nov. 22nd, 2004 01:48 am (UTC)
Hee! Great minds are offended alike.

And, I was annoyed by that last week as well! I seem to remember snorting myself and ranting at Patrick at how the Observer's Irish correspondents obviously don't live here if they think we have H&M - if only we did!
Nov. 22nd, 2004 02:31 am (UTC)
Heh. I was reading that bit of the Observer at breakfast this morning, and I was enraged by the exact same two things. Our family hive mind is obviously working...
Nov. 22nd, 2004 02:56 am (UTC)
Hee! The Careys are like the Borg.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )


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