Parents of non-baptised children are being forced to travel for “two hours” to bring them to school, because overcrowded local facilities will not take them in on religious grounds, a TD has claimed.
Sinn Féin education spokesperson Jonathan O’ Brien made the allegation — which has been questioned by Education Minister Jan O Sullivan — after meeting with affected families yesterday.
The Cork North Central TD said parents told him while they have attempted to enrol their children in certain schools in Dublin “they are being excluded on the basis of not having a baptismal cert”.
He said the “shameful” issue was due to the fact individual schools are already overcrowded and in such circumstances are allowed to prioritise children of the same religious ethos — a law he said that must be “immediately repealed”.
“Children should not have to embark on a two-hour commute to get to junior infants because the State legally allows the patrons to discriminate against them for being the wrong religion or for having no religion.
“It isn’t a big ask that children be allowed attend their local school. The minister has a responsibility to do this and if the Government have the political will they could use forthcoming admissions legislation as a way of doing so.
“People should not be forced to contemplate having children christened purely to get them into school. This discrimination must end,” he said.
A spokesperson for the minister questioned that parents being forced to make a two-hour commute was solely the result of the school religious ethos situation. It was suggested it may also involve parents choosing to enrol their children in other schools which are not as overcrowded.
The spokesperson said, ultimately, schools with a religious ethos are allowed to prioritise children of the same religion in situations where more pupils have applied than places are available, meaning in catholic-run schools non-baptised children could miss out.
However, he stressed that even in these situations there are usually a large number of other schools nearby which will be in a position to take children into their facilities — meaning lengthy commutes are less common than suggested.
The spokesperson noted, in the 2010/11 school year, while there were 74 multi-denominational primary schools in Ireland catering for 14,589 children, there are now 104 multi-denominational primary schools catering for 22,449 children.
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