Removing the baptism barrier
Sir, – In saying that the removal of the baptism barrier is not necessary as the provision of extra schools has already addressed the problem, Seamus Mulconry, general secretary of the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association, once again demonstrates his misunderstanding of the problem (“Baptism barrier: ‘If Damien from The Omen turned up, we’d take him in’”, May 9th). The problem is not one of school places. I have not heard of a single child who has not secured a school place. In fact the State is constitutionally obliged to provide for free primary education for every child (Article 42.4). Even if there were a massive increase in school places, some schools would still be oversubscribed and, if the baptism barrier were to remain, be allowed to discriminate against children on religious grounds.
The point is that publicly-funded schools are allowed to discriminate against children on religious grounds in their admissions policies and 90 per cent of primary schools are under the patronage of Catholic bodies. This, apart from being an aberration in the developed world, means that many parents have had their children baptised just to improve their chances of getting them into schools. The State and Catholic institutions have been complicit in incentivising religious hypocrisy.
Even if the baptism barrier is removed, the greater problems of the virtual monopoly of the primary education system by Catholic institutions and the absence of an effective opt-out from unwanted religious indoctrination would still remain. This cannot continue. Last year, 37 per cent of marriages were non-religious. Around a fifth of families of parenting age are non-religious. Ireland has changed. So must our education system. – Yours, etc,