Ensure Pluralism in Education


A modern Irish democracy must respect and reflect the diversity of Irish society and the citizens which it serves. The State has a responsibility to ensure that each child has access to a State-funded school within their locality, and that the ethos of the school is inclusive of their family’s belief system.

A significant number of parents feel that that they have no option but to send their child to a school which does not align with their belief system. In areas where there is pressure on school places, many parents feel that they are required to adopt a particular religion for their child for the purpose of ensuring that their child can enrol in a State-funded school. This situation is entirely unacceptable.

Although there have been some attempts to introduce pluralism to the Irish Education system, 96% of State-funded schools remain denominationally-controlled. This is not reflective of the wishes of large numbers of parents and the Social Democrats believe that reform is urgently needed.

In 2015, the Social Democrats proposed an amendment to the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013, to repeal section 7 (3) c of the Equal Status Act which currently allows schools to favour certain religions when deciding its enrolment policy. The government voted against the amendment and it was rejected by a majority in the Dáil.

THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS ARE COMMITTED TO PLURALISM AND ENDING DISCRIMINATION IN EDUCATION AND PROPOSE THE FOLLOWING MEASURES:

  • Repeal of Section 7 (3) (c) of the Equal Status Act so that children cannot be refused admission to a local school on the basis of their religious beliefs.
  • That the patronage of all new schools in developing areas should be representative of local parental preference.
  • Where a demand for a new inclusive school is proven in an established area, the State should ensure that either a suitable denominational school building would be provided under an agreed divestment programme, a suitable public building would be made available, or funding would be provided for a new school building. Once the viability of a potential new school is established, the State should accommodate this demand within three years.
  • The Minister for Education and Skills should be required to report annually to the Dáil on the progress of the State in ensuring an inclusive State-funded school system which reflects the diversity of Irish society and which upholds the right of all citizens to an education, appropriate to their beliefs.
  • UPDATE: In April 2017, we introduced to the Dáil our Equal Status (Amendment) Bill 2017.  The Bill 2017 removes the so-called ‘baptism barrier,’ ensuring that all children have fair and equal access to publicly-funded schools, regardless of their faith. Currently, children can be denied access to their local primary schools solely on the basis of their religion. This is because Section 7 (3) (c) of the Equal Status Act 2000 allows Catholic and other denominational schools to exclude a child of another religion or none – the so-called ‘baptism barrier’. Our  Bill ends the baptism barrier by repealing Section 7 (3) c of the Equal Status Act 2000 as it applies to publicly-funded schools.