School patronage and rights of parents
Sir, – We are supposed to live in a republic where basic human rights such as freedom of conscience and freedom of religion should be protected. Yet we have a primary school system dominated to the tune of 90 per cent by the Catholic Church, which does not protect the constitutional right of parents to opt their children out of unwanted religious indoctrination, which can permeate the entire school day. Up until last year, it was legal for publicly-funded primary schools to discriminate against children based on religion. You might think that the only kind of republic that these facts would be consonant with would be a theocratic republic, but you’d be wrong.
I presume supporters of the status quo would support a publicly-funded system in a Muslim-majority country where Catholic children were subjected to Islamic indoctrination throughout the school day? Minority rights should not matter too much once the majority don’t have a problem with it, right?
There is a place for denominational education for those who want it, but the status quo where the Catholic Church dominates to such an extreme degree, where children are subjected to unwanted indoctrination, in breach of their and their parents’ constitutional rights, in a system they contribute to funding is, as Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said, not tenable, nor is it reflective of the wishes of a growing number of parents.
Is the vision of the Irish education system for an increasingly pluralistic society one where children will be educated on a religiously segregated basis? How did this work out in Northern Ireland? If everyone has a right to educate their children through their religion, are we to have a school for every religion in every area in the country? How would this be funded? Is that really a recipe for a true republic?
Yes, we need to build more schools and some schools should be divested, but the vision should be one of pluralism and inclusivity, where fundamental human and constitutional rights are protected. – Yours, etc,