The Department retained the Industrial and Reformatory School system inherited in 1922, making only a few minor changes when circumstances demanded them. The Department continued to see itself, as Richard Mulcahy, the Minister for Education, put it, as ‘the man with the oil-can’ who goes around attending to squeaks but makes no fundamental change to the machinery.
In their General Statement, the Oblates quoted from Patrick Clancy’s article, ‘Education Policy’, on this matter.38 He wrote: Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Irish education system is the level of church involvement and control. Church control of education is rooted in the ownership and management of schools. After independence in 1922, the new state institutionalized the denominational school system which it inherited. Successive ministers of education adopted the view that the role of the state in education was a subsidiary one of aiding agencies such as the churches in the provision of educational facilities. The classic expression of this position is outlined in Minister of Education, Richard Mulcahy’s speech to Dáil Éireann in 1956: ‘Deputy Moylan has asked me to philosophise, to give my views on educational technique or educational practice. I do not regard that as my function in the Department of Education in the circumstances of the educational set-up in this country. You have your teachers, your managers and your Churches and I regard the position as Minister in the Department of Education as a kind of dungaree man, the plumber who will make the satisfactory communications and streamline the forces and potentialities of educational workers and educational management in this country. He will take the knock out of the pipes and will link up everything’. (Dáil Debates, 159: 1494).