The Social Democrats have called for an end to State-sponsored religious discrimination in Irish schools.
The party says it is unacceptable that children as young as four can still be refused admission to state schools if they do not have a baptismal cert.
It is calling for the repeal of Section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act, the clause that means the majority of State-funded schools can refuse children from different faiths or non-religious backgrounds.
“It is time to finally end this outdated discrimination,” said co-leader Róisín Shortall at the party's first national conference today.
“One of the most fundamental principles of a republic is that citizens are not discriminated against because of any faith they do or don’t profess.
“Yet, every year, religious affiliation is the very basis on which access is denied to a vital public service: education.
“The law of the land, as it currently stands, is that State-funded schools are perfectly entitled to refuse entry to children as young as four because they are not signed up to a particular religious belief.
“Even schools that accommodate children of different faiths, or no faith, continue to expose those children to a religious ethos to which they do not subscribe.
“This is entirely unacceptable.”
Deputy Shortall said it was time for Ireland’s education system to “reflect and respect the diversity of Irish society”.
“We have long moved on from organised religion dominating the lives of a large proportion of people.
“Laws and public services need to catch up. It is a key priority of the Social Democrats to repeal Section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act.
“Incredibly, the Government’s School Admissions Bill, currently going through the Dáil, ignores the baptism barrier.
“It is time to finally end this outdated discrimination and we will be tabling amendments to this Bill to that effect.”