Schools must allow children leave during religion class, says Atheist Ireland

‘We are now a pluralist country with Catholic laws that we are gradually dismantling’

The UN must raise the issue of religious discrimination Irish schools with the Dublin Government, Atheist Ireland has said.

"Ireland is no longer a Catholic country. We are now a pluralist country with Catholic laws that we are gradually dismantling. The most important next step is removing the anachronistic control that the Catholic Church has over the education of our children," it said in a statement.

It follows a report in Monday’s Irish Times which said “slow” progress was being made in providing access to multi-denominational education in the State with new figures showing that Catholic schools account for 89 per cent of primary schools in the state.

These new figures shows that, despite a Government commitment to provide 400 multi-denominational primary schools by 2030, there are currently 164 multi-denominational schools in Ireland compared with 2,750 Catholic primary schools in Ireland.


Non-denominational schools

“Even if they existed, having 400 multi-denominational schools would not solve the problem, as most parents would not be able to access these schools,” Atheist Ireland said. It also pointed out that “multi-denominational schools are still religious schools. They do not respect the freedom of conscience of atheist families.”

What was needed, it said, were “non-denominational schools, which treat everyone equally and do not promote either religion or atheism”. As “an immediate step” Irish schools “must allow children to leave the classroom during religion class”, it said.

The group has made a complaint to the Irish Comptroller and Auditor General about this “as schools that receive public funding are constitutionally obliged to do this”, it said. It has also complained to the Comptroller about what it describes as “the misuse of public funds regarding the teaching of religion in Irish schools”.

It has asked the UN to raise with the Irish Government the issue in schools of a "right to objective sex education, and section 37 of the Employment Equality Act, which allows publicly funded schools to discriminate against teachers on the ground of religion".

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times