Migrant body seeks end to religious discrimination by schools
Change to law needed over preferential treatment, Integration Centre says
Integration Centre chief executive Killian Forde says section 7 of the Equal Status Act ‘needs to be amended’ to prevent schools giving ‘preferential treatment to students on the basis of their religion. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
An advocacy organisation for migrants has called for a change in the law to prevent schools giving preferential access to children of certain religions.
There was an “accelerating trend” where one school in an area is becoming a migrant school while the other is becoming the “Irish Catholic” school, chief executive Killian Forde said.
Section 7 of the Equal Status Act “needs to be amended” to prevent schools giving “preferential treatment to students on the basis of their religion”, Mr Forde said. Section 7 allows schools to discriminate on the grounds of religion if necessary to protect their ethos.
The State has an “ad hoc approach to patronage”and the organisation is “concerned about how schooling is evolving” , he said.
In a submission to the Department of Education earlier this month, Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan said that denominational schools should no longer have the right to discriminate in favour of enrolling children on the basis of their religion.
The Roadmap to Integration report also calls for a more efficient racism monitoring system to be put in place by the Garda.
Recent reports by migrant NGOs have highlighted the increase in the number of racist incidents recorded . “What we see is the levels of racism are increasing across the board. They are still largely verbal. But they will become actioned into more maligned types of racism,” Mr Forde said.
Mr Forde said there was a “legislative gap” as the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act was not “comprehensive enough”.
He also wanted to see “enhanced sentencing” for racist crime and a “clear definition of a hate crime” . “Racism needs to be introduced as an aggravating factor in sentencing,” he said.
The report also welcomes several policy changes impacting on migrants over the past year. One positive change in education policy was the abolishment of waiting lists which “puts newcomer students at a disadvantage in urban areas”.
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn published the general scheme of the Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill in September, to provide a new regulatory framework for school enrolment procedures and to provide a new appeals mechanism.
The organisation also hopes that the recent lifting of the Garda recruitment embargo will see more members of new communities joining the force. The increase in “foreign-born” candidates for next year’s election was another “positive trend” is also noted by the report.