It's a double act to follow for the men in red;Jotter

20th February 1998 at 00:00
So who exactly are the "hard man, soft man" double act behind the Catholic Church's toings and froings on Glasgow schools?

Last week we reported on what seemed like a Damascus conversion as the Church moved from what it had previously dismissed as "breathtakingly naive" closure proposals to something it could do business with.

In the beginning, the view was that closing St Leonard's Secondary in Easterhouse and sending pupils to St Andrew's Secondary in Carntyne was "completely unacceptable from almost every conceivable point of view". This has now given way to demands for an assurance that "a new school will be provided on the St Andrew's site as soon as possible".

Then there was the strange case of St Augustine's, whose loss would be "a bitter blow to an already disadvantaged area of the city". The new authorised version is that if the council does go ahead and close it "the families affected should be informed NOW (note the emphasis) that a new-build, fully equipped and well-staffed replacement will be built . . . to replace St Roch's and St Augustine's".

As for St Gerard's Secondary, the previous response simply noted acidly - sorry "with interest" - that there was to be an "enhancement of resources for the non-denominational sector in the area". Now, sadly, St Gerard's has reached "a point of no return".

Finally, the Church once said it was "totally opposed to any change in status or location of Notre Dame (Secondary)".

Oh no it's not. For now it is happy to "dialogue with the council" (ugh) to rebuild the all-girl Notre Dame "at or near the current site". It would also "consider with an open mind any arguments brought forward for the new-build school to be coeducational".

So what can it all mean? Both versions have the imprimatur of Cardinal Thomas Winning but surely they cannot have emanated from the same author.

One indication may be that firebrand epistles from the Cardinal are normally associated with Fr Noel Barry, his spokesman. On the other hand, Peter Mullen, the Church's rep on Glasgow's education committee and former Holyrood Secondary heidie, has been known to strike an emollient tone.

If this is indeed the situation it must surely be the first time the Church rep on one education committee has pronounced on the preserve of another. (Father Barry is Catholic rep on West Dunbartonshire's education committee. So come on Peter, get stuck into West Dunbartonshire).

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