Heated Seanad exchanges on school religious proposal

FF Senator accuses Labour of thinking that anyone holding religious belief is inferior

Senator Darragh O’Brien: it is an entitlement of educators to protect their religious ethos. Photograph: David Sleator

Senator Darragh O’Brien: it is an entitlement of educators to protect their religious ethos. Photograph: David Sleator

 

There were exchanges over Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan’s pledge to abolish a 50-year-old rule giving privileged status to religion in the classroom.

Seanad Labour leader Ivan Bacik said the proposed abolition of “rule 68’’ was a further step in making the school system more reflective of the reality of pluralism in society. “This change is long overdue, and the deletion of the rule was recommended by the national forum on patronage and pluralism in the primary sector established by the former minister Ruairí Quinn.’’

She also noted the recent passing through the Dáil of a Bill which ensured schools would no longer be able to discriminate against teachers on the basis of lifestyle or because they offended, or were seen to offend, their ethos.

Fianna Fáil Seanad leader Darragh O’Brien said “while some people in Ireland believe religion might be an offence, may I remind members it is an entitlement of educators to protect their religious ethos’’.

Ethos

He wanted to ask Ms Bacik and others how Church of Ireland schools would protect their ethos.

Mr O’Brien said 82 per cent of Irish people had declared themselves to be Catholic in a recent census. Labour appeared to think anyone holding a religious belief was inferior to its members and their views. “We never said that,’’ replied Ms Bacik.