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Rights report

The UN has called Ireland out on religious schools' 'discriminatory admissions policies'

A number of human and children’s rights groups have called for action in addressing a number of issues.

A NUMBER OF human rights and children’s groups have come out demanding political action to address a number of issues highlighted in the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s (UNCRC) report on Ireland.

The UNCRC examined Ireland’s children’s rights record last month for the first time in almost 1o years.

The final report welcomes a number of changes implemented in Ireland based on its last set of recommendations, issued in 2006. These include:

  • The establishment of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
  • The passing of the Gender Recognition Act 2015, which means that a person’s chosen gender will be recognised by the State from the age of 16 onwards.
  • The 31st Amendment – which recognises children as rights holders under the Constitution.

However, the organisation highlights a number of negative issues regarding the rights of children in Ireland, including:

  • The lack of non-denominational schools for children to attend and the number of schools that continue “to practice discriminatory admissions policies on the basis of the child’s religion.”
  • The lack of available abortion in Ireland and “the severe lack of access to sexual and reproductive health education and emergency contraception for adolescents.”
  • The inadequate State-care given to children living in Direct Provision.
  • The “structural discrimination” against children from Traveller and Roma communities, with particular focus on “their access to education, health and an adequate standard of living.”


On the back of the report, a number of organisations have called for any incoming government to address the issues outlined.

April Duff, Chairperson of Education Equality, said that the discrimination against non-religious children must be stopped:

“The status quo is unsustainable.”

Many parents who are non-religious, or who practice minority religions, are unable to get their children into local schools and immediate action is needed by the incoming government to address this pressing human rights issue.

Meanwhile, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, expressed her happiness with the positive elements of the report, but said that there were still many issues that needed to be addressed.

90372385 Tanya ward with families and a number of children's rights activists

“Throughout the report, the Committee consistently highlights vulnerable children, in particular Traveller and Roma children,” she said.

They express ‘deep concern’ about the number of Traveller children with no access to adequate water and sanitation and also call for a new strategy to address racism.

Strong criticism

Amnesty International took the publishing of the report to once again strongly criticise Ireland’s position on abortion, calling for immediate action to be taken once the next government is established.

shutterstock_289351172 Shutterstock / paintings Shutterstock / paintings / paintings

“These are very serious condemnations of Ireland’s restrictive and punitive position on abortion,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

The next government can neither hide from nor deny the reality that the eighth amendment is causing serious violations of the human rights of women and girls. It is surely crystal clear now that a referendum is needed.

The repealing of the Eight Amendment, which grants equal status to the life of the mother and the unborn child, is shaping up to be a key election issue, with many groups demanding a referendum be held within the lifetimes of the next government.

“The time for dodging this issue is past,” said O’Gorman.

No Irish government can continue to bury its head in the sand as women and girls are forced to leave their homes and families to access the care that they need in other countries.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs welcomed the publication of the report, saying that it will be referred to the different departments that relate to the rights of children.

The UNCRC recommended in its report that Ireland address the above issues and submit a periodic report by 27 October 2021, when it will once again examine the country’s record.

Read: ‘Despite our best efforts, 1 in 12 children still live in poverty’

Read: Does Fine Gael’s shiny new economic plan actually stack up?

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