Sean McGraw: "The Politics of Irish Primary Education: Reform in an Era of Secularisation"


Location: B101 Jenkins Nanovic Halls

Sean Mcgraw Visiting Scholar 2019 2020

The latest battlefield in the ongoing debate over secularism in Ireland is education. The role of the Catholic Church in education has come under increasing scrutiny in a rapidly liberalizing Ireland. Yet that role is frequently misunderstood and is shrouded in myth.


In The Politics of Irish Primary Education: Reform in an Era of Secularisation, Boston College political scientist Sean McGraw and his co-author Jonathan Tiernan provide a timely book that addresses the evolving role of religion and the Catholic Church in a rapidly changing Ireland. Taking recent referenda campaigns that legalized same-sex marriage (2015) and abortion (2018) as a starting point, McGraw and Tiernan discuss growing calls to reduce, or eliminate altogether, the Catholic Church’s control in primary education. Such control has long been considered a bastion of the Church’s influence in shaping every aspect of Irish life.


This book combines a rich historical study of Irish primary education with an astute analysis of how policy reforms have unfolded in contemporary Ireland in areas such as divestment, school admissions, and curriculum development. The wide-ranging set of data include engaging policy case studies that cover emotionally charged issues, often featuring passionate polar opposites, in objective, measured, and thoughtful ways.

Sean McGraw earned his Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University and taught political science at the University of Notre Dame for several years. His primary research has focused on the Irish political system, especially party competition and the changes in the political landscape at a time of unprecedented change. Professor McGraw’s first book, How Parties Win: Shaping the Irish Political Arena (Michigan University Press, 2015), takes advantage of the Irish case to help explain how major parties seek to preserve their long-term electoral predominance in the face of dramatic social and economic change by shaping the choices available to voters during elections. His work has appeared in Irish Political Studies, the European Journal of Political Research, Government and Opposition, and Parliamentary Affairs.

Professor McGraw's lecture is co-sponsored by the University of Notre Dame's Department of Political Science


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