Religion and education
Sir, – Census figures released today show that the numbers of people in Ireland who are non-religious has almost doubled in five years and now represents 10 per cent of the population.
Given the census finding that 78 per cent of the population are Catholic and 90 per cent of primary schools cater for the Catholic religion, it is evident that the current system is out of step with the needs of Irish people.
Many children of no religion have no option but to attend denomination-based schools where faith-formation takes place and where effective opting out arrangements are not always in place.
Children of no religion can also find it difficult accessing a school due to the so-called “baptism barrier”, and while the Minister for Education recently announced plan to breathe new life into the divestment process, that action is now urgently needed if the Government is to reach its stated goal of 400 schools under multi-denominational or non-denominational patronage by 2030.
The clear decline in Catholicism over a number of censuses and the parallel increase in people of no religion means that the Department of Education has no option but to meet the target of 400 multi- and non-denominational schools by 2030.
It must be noted that even if that race is won, by 2030 almost 90 per cent of primary schools will still remain under denominational patronage. If current trends continue, the number of non-religious will be upwards of 25 per cent by the year 2030.
The challenge for Government is now to respond to this clear trend and to ensure that the largest minority in the State, those of no religion, have access to education on an equal basis with others and have those beliefs respected during the school day. – Yours, etc,