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Religious discrimination in schools to be addressed 'before the next school year'

Minister Jan O’Sullivan says the government won’t be getting to it before the election.

Image: Shutterstock/blue caterpillar

Updated 12.51 pm

EDUCATION MINISTER JAN O’Sullivan has said that the issue of religious discrimination in school admissions will not be dealt with by the current government.

Speaking in the Dáil this morning, O’Sullivan said that she is not “kicking it to touch” and that the next government could address the issue before the next school year.

O’Sullivan said that the current admissions bill being considered by government does not address the issue, adding that it must be a priority after the election.

I have made clear my view that this is a matter that does need to be reviewed and addressed and will need to be a priority for the next government. So that this matter can be addressed in advance of the next school year.

An exemption under the Equal Status Act allows for schools with a religious ethos to discriminate in admissions based on religion. There’s been a growing movement for this to be changed and the minister says that it is one that is backed by her.

The update came a day after O’Sullivan announced that the privileged status of religion in primary schools is set to be removed.

Rule 68 is laid out in the Rules for National Schools Under the Department of Education document that dates back 50 years.

It states that: “Of all the parts of the school curriculum religious instruction is by far the most important, as its subject-matter, God’s honour and service, includes the proper use of all man’s faculties, and affords the most powerful inducements to their proper use”.

rule 68 Source: The Department of Education

Speaking last night, Minister O’Sullivan described Rule 68 as “archaic” and that she would be repealing it.

The Labour TD has the autonomy to remove the rule without any further parliamentary action.

She said that getting rid of the rule was “only one small step” and that:

The development of a new curriculum for all of our primary schools, which will provide education about religion, beliefs and ethics, will be more important in many ways.
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is currently reviewing the national curriculum, with its recommendations set to be published next year.

PastedImage-97941 Jan O'Sullivan says the issue is not being 'kicked to touch'. Source: Oireachtas.ie

Currently, schools are required to teach an average of 30 minutes religious education each school day – something that the Minister said would be reviewed.

In 2012, a report produced by the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism – published by then Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn – described Rule 68 as “outdated” and recommended its removal to bring Irish schools into line with the European standard.

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

Read: The Archbishop of Dublin says parents who don’t want their kids to do religion have a point

Also: Does sending a kid to childcare or caring for them at home make any difference to their development?

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