Labour initiative to remove role of religions in schools

The Dáil will be asked to support a referendum furthering the separation of church and state in the autumn after a public petition to remove religious influences in our schools.

Labour senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin is leading the initiative and said a public petition will be launched in the coming weeks.

The party hopes enough support will be garnered to back a move to amend the constitution and remove the role of religions in schools. Labour want the citizen’s assembly to examine the issue.

“It is a constitutional right for parents to have their children educated through the ethos of their choice,” said Mr Ó Riordain. “This was introduced in the 1930s and 1940s to protect minority faiths in schools. Ironically, the major faiths have benefited. It also has a huge impact on employment law.”

The senator said there was a huge emphasis in primary schools on religion, from the enrolement of a child and their admission to the way a school day is constructed, to the administration of religious instruction, sacrament preparation. There was also the issue in religious run schools of how its rules could influence the student body, when it came to LGBT rights and gender equality issues, said Mr Ó Riordain.

“There is a sense in many schools that they are hamstrung by religious ethos,” he said

Labour believes significant numbers will commit to the online petition, especially following the votes in support of marriage equality and the liberalising of Ireland’s abortion laws.

This support will be used to put pressure on other parties and TDs in the Dáil to push for a resumption of the Citizens’ Assembly, which Labour believes should take up the matter.

“Ireland is different now,” said Mr Ó Riordain.

There is an appetite for discussion on schools and the influence of the Church. A question should be put to the people, should we take religions and religious influences out of education.

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