I will offer one further comment on this short history of a period when change was inevitable, and essential to meet the needs of a new structure where Ireland would be a partner in a European Union, and the systems that had served us well would no longer be adequate The one major gap in all this outpouring of ideas, plans, policy statements, and discussion was, that there was no evidence of a coherent set of aims and objectives to meet these new circumstances. Major change was on the way yet nobody had any plans on how this change was to be implemented.
It was into this vacuum that the proposal for Community Schools was dropped, and very soon the controversy started. A perusal of the newspapers of 1971 reveals an amazing range of “experts " who were ready to offer theirs opinions on this as yet unborn infant of our education system. The Churches were early on the scene and the late Cardinal Conway was not supportive of the concept of the community school. Equally the Protestant churches were expressing their reservations too.
The papers show little evidence of the input of the teacher unions in the discussions it was from the numerous “experts " that the most varied; inaccurate, and, at times, the most destructive comments came. Here are some quotes just to give a flavour. These are all taken from the Irish Times letters and articles during 1971 "It would be an act of political lunacy for us as a nation to pursue any further this proposal", "the most gigantic act of religious sectarianism", "The allegation of sectarianism is beneath contempt", “ We would not go in to any school that was not completely Catholic". Around this time a pamphlet was published entitled "The snakes are back" whose author was "Concerned parents", and this was a mishmash of conspiracy theories concerning the funding from the World Bank, the machinations of the Department and others who were determined to establish "pagan schools" in Ireland.
There is one final quote from The Times July 1971 “The grand design of the community schools, the national blueprint, is now as dead as a pork chop “I have had considerable difficulty in resisting the temptation to identify the author of that one. Such was the nature of the “debate “, and this was almost inevitable in the absence of any precise information.
The result was that the Department had to go on the offensive, and three officials were sent to a series of public meetings in various communities to explain the reality behind the proposals. This was a new role for any civil servant and it must have seemed like being thrown to the lions.