Removing Catholic symbols from schools


A chara, – Ronan McCrea (“Removing Catholic symbols and practices from State schools no easy task”, Opinion & Analysis, October 21st) asks a good question. Is it possible to fully rid ourselves of Catholic symbolism?

However, he doesn’t ask the other question. Do we need to ?

He briefly cites Lautsi v Italy, the defining ruling from the European Court of Human Rights in 2011. In that case, and by a massive majority of 15 votes to two, the court ruled that Catholic symbols in Italian state schools pose absolutely no threat to non-Catholics.

The judges described the crucifix as an “essentially passive symbol” and that while “above all a religious symbol”, there was no evidence that its display in schools might have an influence on pupils.

The case was made that the crucifix is a symbol of Europe’s cultural and historic roots, representing the Christian origin of our values; justice, charity, dignity of the person, solidarity, etc.

Brave new post-Christian Ireland is rather unique in its zeal to bury its Christian past. Like a teenager throwing a tantrum, revolting against parents and upbringing, while more mature, less insecure secular societies embrace and celebrate their Christian heritage. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Prof Ronan McCrea correctly points out that Education and Training Board (ETB) schools are supposed to be multidenominational and that mandatory Masses, Catholic symbols and visits by diocesan inspectors have come to be seen as increasingly inappropriate.

Unusually, by international standards, the vast majority of schools in Ireland are explicitly Catholic in denomination.

Prof McCrea cites the case of Lautsi v Italy, in which the European Court of Human Rights ruled that religious symbols can appear in state schools provided that the system is open to all belief systems and the overall effect on pupils is not oppressive.

There are a few important points to note here. Italy has a secular school system, whereas Ireland does not. Italy’s primary school system is not dominated to the tune of around 90 per cent by Catholic patrons, as is the case in Ireland.

There are no timetabled periods of Catholic indoctrination, from which an effective opt-out is virtually impossible.

Also, there is no integrated religious curriculum in state schools in Italy, as there is here, which makes unwanted indoctrination during the school day effectively unavoidable.

Had this been the case in Italy, it might have satisfied the test for being “oppressive”.

Crucially, religious influence goes far beyond a crucifix on a wall in the vast majority of State-funded schools in Ireland.

The fact that we still have mandatory Masses and diocesan inspectors even in supposedly “multidenominational” schools demonstrates that much work remains to be done to vindicate the constitutional and human rights of non-Catholic families in the Irish education system. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 16.