Senator Rónán Mullen has promised to champion Christian schools in Donegal after launching the Inishowen leg of his European election campaign in Londonderry.
The Independent candidate for Midlands–North-West also accused Sinn Féin of ambiguity on abortion and said that the SDLP should be asking hard questions of its fraternal brethren in the pro-choice Labour Party in Dublin.
Speaking to the Sentinel after what he described as a fruitful campaign launch in the City Hotel, Mr Mullen said he believed small Protestant schools in Donegal were vulnerable to the secularising instincts of the Dublin Education Minister Ruairí Quinn.
“This is something that is coming up in a lot of places but in particular in Donegal,” he told the Sentinel
“There is real concern that the Government is hostile to minority schools because it is hostile to faith based schools in general,” he added.
Mr Mullen said the erosion of faith-based education was in breach of the Irish constitution, which deems parents the natural educators of children and respects their inalienable right to provide for the religious, moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children.
He said he believed Labour was wedded to the promotion of a secular ideology through which children will be educated about religions and belief systems but not according to the ethos of those systems.
“This is as much a concern to Catholic schools as it is to Protestant schools. However, minority schools, not least in Donegal, need extra support as they don’t always have large numbers,” he said.
The Senator vowed to champion small faith-based schools if elected in the forthcoming election.
“Absolutely. Some of that has to do with Dublin, but I’ll be looking to see what can be done from Brussels in terms of supporting faith-based schools,” he said.
Another topic exercising the Senator is the inconsistency he sees in Sinn Féin’s attitude to abortion.
Mr Mullen said that whilst Sinn Féin says it is opposed to abortion - it has expressed this in recent debates in both Belfast and Dublin - it has voted in favour of abortion in cases where doctors attest a woman’s life is at risk through suicide.
The pro-life candidate says this runs against the grain of many of Sinn Féin’s grass roots supporters’ beliefs and points to the party’s punitive treatment of one of its TDs for defying the party whip on the southern Protection of Life During Pregnancy bill.
“The way I’d be viewing it is that countless people in Ireland subscribe to Christian values. But none, none of the political parties in Dáil Éireann have respect for those values.
“It was appalling the way Peadar Tóibín (Sinn Féin TD for Meath West) was treated by his party for acting according to his conscience.”
And Mr Mullen believes the SDLP should be putting pressure of its long term affiliates within the Socialist International, the Irish Labour Party.
“I would call on the SDLP to ask some hard questions of the Labour Party and its disastrous policy on abortion,” he told the Sentinel.