Legislation to remove the so-called “baptism barrier” on schools admission has been passed by the Dáil.
After a late night debate the House accepted the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill which prohibits the requirement for a child to be baptised before they can be admitted to Catholic schools.
Religious bodies had argued that banning religion as a selection criterion in admissions would breach their constitutional rights relating to religious freedom and freedom of association.
But Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the provision was robust and would mean baptism as a requirement for school entry would be removed from most schools but retained where a child of a minority needs to gain access to a school of their ethos.
Three Independent Rural TDs - Michael Healy-Rae, Mattie McGrath and Michael Collins - called a number of votes but, because they did not have the minimum 10 TDs required to press votes, the votes did not take place.
Mr Bruton told the Dáil after the Bill was passed: “Ireland is changing and we need to change with it. The expectation of citizens around the education system have changed and I think this Bill will go some distance to ensuring that we keep up with those changes.
Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne welcomed the passage of the Bill which he described as “in some ways radical legislation” but said in other way it will not affect many schools in terms of how they operate.
“It’s going to give clarity to schools and to children and will result in a fairer education system without being an attack on the ethos of schools, which I have to say I do value.”
The legislation now goes to the Seanad.