Crucifixes in schools should be joined by other religious artefacts

Department of Education says change of school patronage ‘has not been as rapid as envisaged’

A report on how to advance pluralism in Irish education has defended the display of crucifixes in schools but suggests they should be accompanied by artefacts from other religions as a way of “celebrating diversity”.

The progress report on the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector notes that divestment of patronage from overwhelmingly Catholic control “has not been as rapid as originally envisaged”. It calls for schools to adopt clear policies which would make it easier for children of a no-faith background to opt out of religious activities without feeling excluded. The report, drawn up by the Department of Education, follows a consultation process that attracted 434 submissions from parents, teachers and other stakeholders.


The document “aims to inform schools of emerging good practices on inclusivity, rather than being prescriptive”, the department said. While it says many schools take steps to mark the major festivals of the world religions, “some caution regarding tokenism or a touristic approach being taken to these celebrations was expressed as part of the public consultation”.

On religious artefacts, it says their display “is a legitimate expression of the historical and cultural values of the school as well as its religious ethos . . .


“Banning the display of religious artefacts is not suggested. Rather, it is suggested that other artefacts reflective of other traditions could be displayed in a school as part of a process of celebrating diversity.”

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times and writer of the Unthinkable philosophy column