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Minister’s public meeting 22 January on Patronage of Mungret Second-level school

On Friday 22 01 2016 there was a meeting in the South Court Hotel, Raheen, Limerick, about the process of choosing what group will be Patron of the Second-level school in Mungret, due to be open for pupils in 2017.

Jan O’Sullivan T.D. Minister for Education and Skills described the process to decide who will be the Patron, and answered questions about this from the people who filled one of the large conference rooms in the hotel.

The meeting was NOT about hearing people’s choice about which patron group they want, but about telling us about the process.

Department of Education’s process to choose a Patron for a new Second-level school

The Department will choose a group of people who will be independent from them. Just how to choose them, and which sort of people, was not clear.

Collecting the views of parents is up to a group that wants to apply to be the patron, and so is the method of receiving parents’ views. They should check parents by the electoral register.

The aspiring patron group or organisation would put its case to the independent deciding group near the end of 2016. Some people said this might not let the school be ready to take children in September 2017, and the minister said she would see about making this nearer the middle of 2017.

The new school would be part of the common application system for secondary schools in the Limerick area, and so the parents whose views are to be sought are all parents in this area.

A person attached to Educate Together (ET) spoke, and said that they will hold a public meeting at the South Court Hotel on Thursday 04 02 2016 at 20:00, as their process of receiving the views of parents. They distributed a leaflet about this, which says to go to Limerick Educate Together Second Level and fill an Expression of Interest form.

A person connected to the Eduation and Training Board for Limerick and Clare (ETB; previously called Vocational Education Committee, VEC) said they collect parent’s views by visiting schools in turn. They have already done one visit.

The applicants to be patron are to tell the independent deciding group their model of how they will operate the school, with an ethos, admission policy, and other features; and the parents’ views that they obtained. It was not clear that there is a mechanism to ensure that this admission policy will be identical to the one they told to the parents.

The Department of Education and Skills is already negotiating with Limerick City and County Council about the roads and other services to enable the school to be built and to operate.

Parents’ comments on the process to choose a Patron for a new Second-level school

About 10 or more people present commented on the procedure taking the views of parents in the whole Limerick second-level application system. Several of these mentioned children travelling long distances to schools outside their own area, and if the new school is not what a parent or pupil in the south-west suburbs of Limerick would prefer, many children will still be travelling far. The minister did not offer to change this rule.

While there is a limit to the money an applicant to be Patron may spend in taking parents’ views (on the screen at the meeting a limit of €300 was shown) the meeting did not hear of any monitoring of the money they spend. The chosen  patron must pay a €50,000 maximum contribution to the intitial construction or fitting of the school.

At least 10 parents said that their child is at an Educate Together primary school, and they have no choice for second-level school when the child reaches that age. Near the end of the meeting a parent said that schools with Roman Catholic patrons accept children of all religions and races, and the community of such schools is not full of racists. The minister’s next reply was that the meeting is to give information; and that one of the criteria in deciding which group will be patron of the new school is how big will be the diversity of second-level school patrons after the decision.

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Mid-West Humanists ask Minister for Education not to entrench religious control of National Schools

A delegation from the Mid-West Humanists met Jan O’Sullivan T.D. Minister for Education and Skills on 24 April 2015, about the Leases of National Schools.

Our National Schools – origins and rules

Now most people believe that our National Schools are tied to principles of various religions (mostly the Roman Catholic religion).

Well, the popular awareness of the origin of National Schools is correct, that the United Kingdom government set them up from 1830 onwards. The government wanted Trustees for each school to include people of a mixture of religions. No such mixed Trustees volunteered, and only sets of clergy of a single religion became Trustees. From the religion of the Trustees, National Schools got called Roman Catholic schools, Church of Ireland schools, etc.

Historians have described the one-religion nature of every set of Trustees as the churches subverting the UK government’s plan. However the plan was subverted only in that the Trustees do not include a mixture of religions.

The Lease of each school vested the running of the school in Trustees, who thereby promised to run the school by the Lease and by the rules from the Minister for Education. From the beginning to the end, the Leases did not mention a religion.

The Leases write “…the object of the system of National Education is to afford Combined literary and moral, and Separate Religious Instruction to children of all persuasions, as far as possible in the same school, upon the fundamental principle that no attempt shall be made to interfere with the peculiar religious tenets of any pupil.”

This may be a surprise to readers, as our National Schools are indeed controlled by clergy of religions – and to most people this includes the idea that those clergy as Trustees run the schools in the style of that particular religion, and that they are entitled to run them in a religious manner. This is actually contrary to the statement in the Lease that we just mentioned. Continue reading

Minister for Education responds to our request for State Secular schools, and we reply

The Mid West Humanists met the Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan TD on 28 November 2014. We told her then that we seek a system of State secular schools to replace the present system of schools devolved to patrons. We put our detailed requests in writing also.

On 10 March the Minister responded to our request. We sent a reply to the Minister on 16 March. We show both of these here. You will see that the Minister and Department of Education and Skills are making some changes. Yet the need for a peaceful society is still for schools to be secular and not divided by religion, and the State should own the schools. The Minister’s letter does not mention this our main idea.

In our reply we noted to the Minister that at present, because 92% of primary schools are under the Roman Catholic patrons, those schools could feel some duty now to adapt to pupils who are not Roman Catholic. Recently the Roman Catholic bishops in Ireland wrote a report about this adaptation, and the publication alone shows that they feel under some such pressure. Our response to the Minister is about this pressure, and how even that pressure will disappear if the country’s schools come to contain a substantial minority of schools with patrons which treat all children in a secular, egalitarian manner. The RC schools would then be more like their own ethos than they are now, and children at those schools would hear little of the variety of cultures that exist in Ireland.
We are not endorsing the particular plans in the report, which Atheist Ireland has reviewed and found greatly wanting.

 

The Minister’s letter to the Mid West Humanists: –

10  March 2015

Dear Mr O’Hara,

 

I refer to your correspondence following our meeting in November 2014.  Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying to you. Continue reading

Blasphemy outlawed in the Constitution – why we should remove this urgently

Pakistan quotes Ireland’s law against blasphemy to defend against democratic countries urging them to abolish it. Laws do maintain culture within a society, and the culture in Pakistan against blasphemy has resulted in the murder of – people released from a blasphemy charge, a lawyer who defended an accused, a judge who did not make the popular decision, and a state governor who had spoken in public of the problems with this law and favoured repealing it.

These murders contribute to views that to kill people who blaspheme (and anyone who favours the “blasphemers”) is right and reasonable. This contribution probably extends, at least indirectly, to those who did the murders on 07 01 2015 in Paris.

To prohibit blasphemy does not add to freedom of religion; it reduces it

Religions have rules. There are usually rules about what you will think or believe, mostly about the god and related people or things. A second set of rules tell you to do some things, and also not to do some other things.

Freedom of religion in democratic societies means you are free to join a religion, and also free not to join a religion; to choose which religion; and to leave the religion at any time.

When you choose a religion you can agree to follow its rules (otherwise, you are not bound by such rules.) If a thousand million people thereby undertake not to draw pictures of Mohammed, that does not create a right for any of those people to stop the other six thousand million people on earth drawing and publishing what they choose. A law against blasphemy is not about freedom of religion: rather it lets some people stop other people exercising freedom of religion and some other freedoms.

Continue reading

Support Charlie Hebdo and freedom of speech

We are Charlie Hebdo

Nous sommes Charlie Hebdo

Is sinn Charlie Hebdo

I and I hope most Mid West Humanists support the right to life of 10 staff at Charlie Hebdo in Paris and of 2 officers of French police; and support their right to freedom of speech, and all people’s right to read any writing and any cartoon or other communication, whether or not it criticises or satirises any idea, whether religious, political, social, sporting, or scientific.

I praise Charlie Hebdo staff for publishing words and pictures without any respect for the ideas of several religions.

 

Are you powerless to do anything about some people murdering cartoonists and journalists who are doing their job (enabling you to read things that are prohibited in some countries)?

You are not powerless.

On TV I see that all the government of France and very many of the people support the right to speak, draw, and publish any matter, irrespective of any offence to any ideas.

France has a principle of secularism in the state (laicité) since 1905, now nearly half the time since the revolution in 1789. Ireland is weak in secularism, as the Constitution since 1937 states that blasphemy is an offence, and in 2009 our legislators continued a law to give effect to that article of the Constitution. Government and other people in Pakistan quote Ireland’s law to say that it is normal, including in Europe, for the law to prohibit criticism of religion. Our constitution and law fail to support the strong efforts of the constitution and law of France to maintain and defend freedom of speech. Today Thursday 08 January Dr Ali Salim of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin said on RTE Radio 1 lunchtime news that it is correct that outraging many adherents of a religion is prohibited by law, and he said that if such outrage comes to his attention he will consult his lawyer as to what to do.

In 2013 the Constitutional Convention voted to suggest to the Government that they hold a referendum to let us choose to remove the law against blasphemy from the Constitution. The Government promised that it would hold this referendum, but at the end of 2014 they said that they will not let us vote on this.

 

You have power as a voter.

Visit all of the TDs in your constituency soon, and tell them that you demand that the Dáil and Senate vote for a bill to let us vote in a referendum on removing the sentence making blasphemy an offence from our Constitution. And tell them NOT to include substituting any sentence in its place.

I feel I owe this support to Charlie Hebdo’s journalists and cartoonists, and to all publishing staff there and in other parts of the world, and to the police who have been trying to protect them, as they are defending my right to freedom of speech.

 

Vive la liberté!

 

We are Charlie Hebdo

Nous sommes Charlie Hebdo

Is sinn Charlie Hebdo

Media Release – Mid West Humanists meet Minister for Education and ask that Ireland have a State Secular system of schools

This is what we sent to the local press after the visit to the Minister for Education and Skills

Mid West Humanists

An Atheist Community in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary

www.midwesthumanists.com/                        info@midwesthumanists.com

www.facebook.com/groups/midwesthumanists/                        28 November 2014

MEDIA RELEASE

 

For Immediate Release

 

Mid-West Humanists meet Minister for Education and Skills and ask that Ireland have a State Secular system of schools

 

Members of the Mid-West Humanists (MWH) met Jan O’Sullivan TD Minister for Education and Skills on 28 November 2014 to ask that Ireland’s system of schools, primary and second-level, be changed to a state system of entirely secular schools.

The Mid West Humanists said to the Minister that the present education system discriminates against children who have no religion and breaches their human rights by denying them access to an education free from the teaching of religious beliefs as facts. These children have the same rights as those of any religion to be taught in an objective manner by the teachers, whom their parents also pay through their taxes. In the last census in 2011 there were 256,000 people who stated that they had no religion, though the true number is substantially more.

The present system – the Patronage system – is biased towards religion, and towards some few religions even more strongly.

There are 3200 primary schools in Ireland. For 94% of these schools, the Patron is a religious organisation, and for 90% the Patron is Roman Catholic. Of the 3200 schools, 1800 are each more than 10km from the nearest other primary school. These all have Roman Catholic patrons. These schools are smaller than average, and these districts cannot support 2 schools.
The changes that the Mid-West Humanists seek to Ireland’s education system, in addition to removing the bias and the discrimination, will make it easier for government to deal with the increasing variety of religions to which people in Ireland belong – including making it easier to provide education.

The secular system that we propose would also liberate teachers who are unhappily forced to teach values in which they no longer believe.

Continue reading

Mid West Humanists tell Minister for Education that schools should be secular and in State ownership

A delegation from the Mid West Humanists met Ms Jan O’Sullivan T.D., Minister for Education and Skills at her office in Limerick on 28  November 2014.

We asked the Minister that Ireland’s education system change from the present system to a State system of entirely secular schools.

 

Here is the full text of the letter we gave to the Minister at the visit.

 

To Jan O’Sullivan TD, Minister for Education and Skills

A Secular and Child- centred Education system for Ireland

 

Dear Minister O’Sullivan

 

We are people with no religion, and there are between 10% and 15% of the population of Ireland who have no religion, perhaps more – the proportion is certainly growing.

While we note that the education system is biased towards religion (and towards some few religions even more strongly),
the changes that we seek to Ireland’s education system, in addition to removing this bias, will make it easier for government to deal with the increasing variety of religions to which people in Ireland belong – including making it easier to provide education.

The Mid West Humanists ask that the system of schools in Ireland, primary and second-level, become a system of entirely secular schools that the state operates itself. Several other changes in relevant law and in the curriculum would follow from this plan
We propose this change with rational arguments, and we aim to show that this would be the best for society in Ireland, with reasons that do not depend on the particular needs or requests of people with no religion, nor on the particular number or proportion of the population who hold any particular religious or non-religious view.

Continue reading