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Human Rights in Access to Education Meeting

The Mid-West Humanists held a public meeting in Limerick City Library at The Granary: –

“Human Rights in Access to Education”

on Friday 20 November 2015 at 19:45.

The meeting heard from –

John Suttle, of the Irish National Schools Trust;
Robert Bennett, of the Mid-West Humanists;
Jane Donnelly, Human Rights officer of Atheist Ireland.

Jane Donnelly, Robert Bennett, and John Suttle

Jane Donnelly, Robert Bennett, and John Suttle

The meeting added to the  public awareness that the present set of schools discriminates against some children (mostly, those of the smaller religious groups and those with no religion) – many schools with Roman Catholic trustees have refused to take children of a different religion or with no religion; and nearly all schools with Roman Catholic trustees infringe the rights of such children not to receive religious instruction while at those schools.

Here is some of what the speakers said about this discrimination.

John Suttle described the history of the National Schools in Ireland from 1830 onwards: how until the 1960s schools in the National School system remained open to all children and without a child being obliged to receive religious instruction at the school (as guaranteed by Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution); but that starting with the new Rules for National Schools by the then Minister for Education in 1965, which made religion the most important subject and removed a warning to treat children’s existing religious views carefully, the State allowed the National Schools to be run like religious denominational schools, contrary to the Leases of the schools (the Minister was and is still obliged to uphold the schools’ leases).
We have a leaflet that gives an account of National School Leases.

Robert Bennett decribed his experiences in sending his own children to Ennis National School; how he was elected as the representative of students’ fathers to that school’s Board of Management, yet some official(s) of the school ensured that he did not serve on the Board; and how he was also a member of the National Parents’ Council (Primary), which he found did not or could not exercise much control at all on how schools operate. Robert’s children now attend a single-sex school, which he feels discriminates against them.

Jane Donnelly described the several Human Rights conventions and how they require that schools respect the religious and philosophical convictions of parents, and that the conventions require the curriculum (including religion) to be taught in a objective, critical and pluralistic manner; how Ireland fails to follow these conventions, which it has adopted; and she described actions by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and by Atheist Ireland to draw the government’s attention to this, including at meetings of the United Nations and of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), yet the government of Ireland has failed to change the education system to fit with these conventions.
More information on Human Rights and Education on teachdontpreach.ie.


The Mid-West Humanists continue drawing attention to how Ireland’s children need a secular system of education. The reasons for a secular education system are in our announcement for this meeting.


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. Also, Article 7 (3) (c) 0f the Equal Status Act 2000 should be repealed.



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