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Human Rights in Access to Education

We have campaigned since 2014 for secular education in Ireland. We learned that the leases of National Schools are quite secular, so that only the religion of the Trustees of each school marks the school as connected to a religion.

On Friday 20 November 2015 we have organised a public meeting

“Human Rights in Access to Education”

City Library, The Granary, Michael Street, Limerick

at 19:45.

This meeting is to continue to make people aware that the present set of schools discriminates against some children (mostly, those of the smaller religious groups and those with no religion); and the segregated schools infringes the rights of all children to grow up knowing all the children in their district (and thus in their society), and in some cases makes it harder for them to understand certain other people with whom they did not mix while at school.

The meeting is open to all people.

Here is some of our campaign so far on secular education and abolishing segregation and discrimination.

The Mid-West Humanists visited the Minister for Education and Skills in November 2014 with our request for a system of Secular Schools, primary and second-level, together with the same Secular system in the colleges that train teachers, and repeal of all laws that discriminate against children and teachers.

John Suttle of the Irish National Schools Trust sent us information about the Leases of National Schools being secular in April 2015. Shortly after that, we went again to the Minister for Education to draw her attention to this.

At that time we knew that she had sent a parliamentary question, about the Leases and the proposed Deeds of Variation to those leases, to the Department of Education, and the written reply which the Department made, which Minister Jan O’Sullivan passed to Ms Clare Daly TD, did not actually answer the questions that Deputy Daly asked. We also knew then that in March 2015 the Secretary-General of the Department of Education Seán Ó Foghlú spoke to the AGM of the Catholic Primary Schools Managers Association (CPSMA), and among other things he said that the Department wanted to continue with the Deeds of Variation, though the plan was delayed due to major legal problems with the Deeds.

You can read a Deed of Variation on page 61 of the CPSMA Handbook 2012.

When the Mid-West Humanists met the Minister Jan O’Sullivan TD in April 2015, she told us that she did not approve of the Deeds of Variation, and that the policy of the Labour Party is for secular education. She said she would not sign any Deeds of Variation. A little after that she told us by email that the power to sign these Deeds is reserved to the Minister for Education (in contrast to some other powers of the Minister which are delegated to civil servants).

We now continue drawing attention to how Ireland’s children need a secular system of education. The children need to have secular schools, so that all the children in any district can go to the one school, in order to meet all the children that live in their society. Where schools are segregated, by religion (in some places, also segregated by other divisions), children do not meet all their peers. The separation leads children to believe that the kids in other schools are in some way different. It leads them to not understand those other children, when in fact children all have the same desires, emotions, and needs. This distance from other groups, when people become adult, sometimes leads to social strife. When there is a problem in society, sometimes one set of people blame another set of people for that problem, solely because they do not know any of that other group and feel they do not understand them, so they must be different.

The Mid-West Humanists also still note that the Leases of National Schools state that each school is open for attendance by children of any religion or none, that religious instruction must be at a time separate from other instruction, and that the school must not try to change a child to have a particular religion. The way that most National Schools now run is contrary to those principles, thus contrary to their Leases and so illegal. It is also contrary to Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution, which notes “the right of any child to attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction at that school”.

We support petitions by Paddy Monahan and Roopesh Panicker that schools not be allowed to refuse to admit a child because of religion.

We encourage people to visit all the TDs in their constituency, and all candidates at the next election, and tell them that they want this illegal discrimination in admissions to schools to be abolished. This depends on enforcing the secular clauses in the schools’ Leases, and obeying Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution.



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