Grand Inquisitor Barry hands out the stakes

12th January 1996 at 00:00
The close watch kept by the Catholic hierarchy on education in Strathclyde is unlikely to be relaxed under the 12 new authorities, Jotter's man in the pews reports.

Father Noel Barry, noted frequenter of the Westminster corridors during the passage of the Local Government Bill, with its implications for Catholic catchment areas, has taken the role of church representative on the education committee of the recently renamed West Dunbartonshire council (formerly Dumbarton and Clydebank).

That takes Barry west of his parish, St Joseph's in Milngavie, which is firmly within East Dunbartonshire. He has often been a scourge of the board of John Paul Academy, a school regarded as taking too few Catholic pupils from Milngavie and Bearsden.

Barry should have plenty to keep him busy in West Dunbartonshire, with the replacement of St Mary's primary in Duntocher high on the agenda. He will also keep his eye on Catholic pupils from Helensburgh, deep in the Argyll salient, who have to cross to West Dunbartonshire to attend Our Lady and St Patrick's High in Dumbarton.

Two prominent Catholic laymen will also be busy come April. Peter Mullen, formerly head of Holyrood High, will be church rep on Glasgow's education committee. School rationalisation will loom large from day one, and the educational establishment will be fascinated to see how Big Peter (as he was known at Holyrood) will reconcile his Catholic beliefs, loyalty to the Labour party and allegiance to his old stomping ground.

Andrew McGarry, current rep on Strathclyde's education committee, goes to East Dunbartonshire, which brings the aforementioned problem of Catholic education in Bearsden and Milngavie his way. McGarry used to be headteacher of St Maurice's in Cumbernauld, but has not been vocal on the regional education committee. Barry is unlikely to countenance a vow of silence from McGarry in his new role, what with the ongoing problem of parishioners sending their children to non-denominational schools.

Catholic parents, meanwhile, wonder whether having a priest and two retired heidies is preferable to representation by some of their own number.

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