Education Equality has today given a guarded welcome to today's launch of the Government's Action Plan for Education 2016-2019.
The advocacy group said it was pleased to see the inclusion of reform of school admissions in the plan, but concerned that no deadline is given for the consultation process.
Speaking after the publication of the Action Plan, Education Equality Chairperson April Duff stressed the urgency of reform in this area.
“All the while, families face another enrolment season where their children will be ranked category 6 of 6 or 5 of 5 because of their religion,” she said.
“While we welcome the Government’s commitment to address religious inequalities in school admissions, we urge the Minister to have urgent regard to the rights of non-religious and minority religion families that are being violated right now.
"In addition, as Education Equality emphasised in consultation with the Labour Party on the Equal Status (Admissions to Schools) Bill 2016, the Bill does not go far enough in failing to address discrimination on religious grounds within a school’s catchment area, however that may be defined.
“We therefore urge the government to take more decisive action than that contained in the Admissions to Schools Bill so as to ensure equality and freedom of religion to all Irish citizens.”
The commitment to increase the number of non-denominational and multi-denominational schools was also welcomed, but Education Equality cautioned that it is not an alternative to “vindicating the rights to freedom of religion and equality of every person in Ireland”.
Ms. Duff said: “Even with an increase to 400 non/multi-denominational schools, the vast majority of schools will still remain under religious patrons and must cater for all children equally.
“The right of every child to an equal opportunity to attend his/her local school, without attending religious instruction, must be vindicated.”