Ireland rejects UN call to end schools discriminating on religious grounds


THE GOVERNMENT has rejected recommendations from UN member states that it should eliminate religious discrimination in access to education.

In a report to be presented to the UN’s Human Rights Council next week, the State will say there is a growing non-denominational school sector in Ireland which caters for all pupils.

“Religious groups are free to establish their own schools to cater for members of their particular faith. This religious freedom is a core element in our system at primary and secondary level,” the State’s report says.

But it adds: “The existing system of school admissions is currently under review, and issues of access are being considered as part of that review process.”

Member states have made 126 recommendations to Ireland to improve its human rights standards in areas such as children’s rights, detention and mental health.

These recommendations form part of a process known as the universal periodic review, where the domestic human rights records of UN member states are reviewed every four years.

While the State accepted most of the recommendations at meetings last year, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter undertook to look at 50 of them in greater detail.

Of these, Ireland has fully accepted 29 recommendations, “partially accepted” a further 17, and has rejected four, one of which includes a call to recognise Travellers as an official minority.

In its response, the State says there are a number of issues around the proposal of recognising Travellers as a separate ethnic minority which need to be considered further. “It is an area which is . . . being given serious consideration,” the report states.

Among the accepted recommendations are, providing legal recognition for children’s rights; strengthening our legal framework to protect vulnerable people such as women, older people and those with disabilities, and developing and adopting a gender parity law.

The State will formally present its report to a session of the UN Human Rights Council next week.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties said the the acid test will be in implementing the Government’s pledges. The council’s director Mark Kelly, speaking on behalf of the Your Rights Right Now campaign, said Ireland’s appearance before the UN next week will provide an “ideal occasion for it to demonstrate that it genuinely understands that human rights leadership begins at home”.

He said that while Ireland was campaigning to secure a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, it had yet to ratify or implement some of the core UN human rights instruments.

He hoped the State would provide details of how it intends to implement the recommendations it has accepted.