Quinn told ‘draconian’ law must go

THE Government may have a rethink on a controversial part of the Employment Equality Act, which a union leader claimed discriminates against people on religious grounds.

Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) president Bernie Ruane told Education Minister Ruairi Quinn it is time to remove the “draconian” section 37 of the 1998 act, which relates to religious schools and institutions.

The section allows religious-run schools to give more favourable treatment to prospective employees on religious grounds so as to maintain their ethos.

Ms Ruane said aspects of a person’s private life might be interpreted as undermining the ethos of a particular institution.

Lesbian, gay and transgender teachers were concerned that in religious-run schools, including community and comprehensive schools, being open about their sexual orientation might lead to discrimination against them, she said.

Mr Quinn, interviewed by reporters at the TUI congress, said there should be no need for section 37 in a pluralist, open and inclusive Ireland.

“We will look at it. The Programme for Government does talk about moving in this area,” he said.

“There is an understandable concern that many people — people who might contemplate a civil partnership, which is now legal in this country — feel that they, perhaps, can’t do that because of the action that might be taken by patrons of some of the schools.”

Asked if it would be repealed, he said he could not anticipate what final action the Government will take.

“It’s not necessarily part of my remit at this point in time,” he added.

“Look, the country has moved on considerably since that education act was enacted and I think people are more tolerant and inclusive.”

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