A multidenominational secondary school discriminated against a Catholic girl on religious grounds by favouring for admission Church of Ireland students from a local primary school.
That is the finding of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) which has ordered the Dublin community school to admit the girl to second year next September.
WRC adjudication officer Brian Dalton has also ordered the community school to cease giving pupils of Church of Ireland faith attending the nearby national school priority when it comes to enrolment in first year. In addition it has been ordered to amend its admissions policy to ensure the prohibited conduct under the Equal Status Act ends.
The school, not named in the ruling, contended it complies with the Equal Status Act and that it does not favour any one religious faith or none over another when deciding who it admits into first year.
However, Mr Dalton found that it was difficult to reconcile how giving preference to Church of Ireland students is consistent with that stated objective while at the same time admitting it does give preference to a particular religious denomination.
The community school – established in 1995 – has capacity for 200 first years each year and receives about 400 applications.
On September 27th, 2019, the girl was told by letter that her application for school entry was unsuccessful.
The letter told her that arising from the school’s enrolment policy, pupils of Church of Ireland faith attending a nearby national school “have priority when it comes to enrolment in first year”.
An internal appeal lodged on behalf of the girl stated that she “was deeply distressed as she lives close to the school and all her close friends were accepted into the school who also attended the same national school”.
The appeal was unsuccessful and the claim of discrimination was lodged with the WRC in March 2020.
The girl was represented at the hearing by her father and an uncle who is a solicitor.
The school denied discrimination and stated that it serves generally Catholic populations with suitable arrangements being made for members of other religions in consultation with appropriate authorities.
The school’s admission policy states: “There is no non fee paying Church of Ireland School in northwest Dublin. Consequently when the college was established, it was designated as a listed post-primary school for Church of Ireland children in order to protect the rights of this minority, thus ensuring that a significant number of this community could be educated together.”
The school’s board of management also includes a member of the Church of Ireland faith.
The school stated that the priority given to the Church of Ireland students was comprehensively reviewed and approved by the board in January 2018 based on a consultation process held with key stakeholders in the community.