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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 20 November, 2019
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Crowds turn out to support family of Dublin girl who failed to get place in local school

The case generated headlines when it came to light earlier this year.

Updated at 6.30pm

THE FAMILY OF a child who struggled to find a school place because of a controversial ‘Catholics first’ policy in some primary schools are holding a march on government buildings this evening.

Roopesh Panicker spent months trying to find a primary school place for his daughter Eva last year only to be told that there were no places available in eight schools near his home in Dublin.

When Roopesh, a Hindu originally from India and now an Irish citizen, asked why his daughter had been refused he was told that the schools were full and that she would be put on a waiting list.

However several schools later told him that they could not guarantee his child a spot for the following school year as she was not baptised.

The case generated headlines when it came to light earlier this year, and has been the subject of debate this week at the Web Summit.

“I couldn’t believe it when they told me that my daughter was not guaranteed a place because she isn’t Catholic,” Roopesh said.

“It is because of this admissions policy that my daughter is put in the bottom category, below any Catholic child.

“I have no problem with any religion and I even went to a Catholic school myself growing up but when it comes to a child’s education we should not discriminate.”

Roopesh contacted the Dublin Archdiocese and the Department of Education for advice on the matter. He said he received a phonecall from the Archbishop’s office advising that he baptise his child, leaving him furious.

“They asked how they could help, and when I explained my situation they suggested that I should baptise my daughter in order to secure a school place.

“I was shocked that they would say this, I couldn’t believe that they would suggest that my daughter change her religion.

“Neither I nor my wife slept that night – we were both in shock.”

A statement from the Dublin Archdiocese said “no school should advise parents to baptise their child to secure a place in that school ahead of another child”.

It added that the decision to put a child forward for baptism was a decision in faith which required “adequate Catechetical Preparation over time”.

A spokesperson added that they had no information of a phonecall of the type mentioned by Roopesh Panicker taking place.

March

Eva eventually got a place in a school around half an hour’s drive away.

The family called on supporters to take part in a march to Government Buildings on Dublin’s Merrion Street at 6pm today.

Photos posted online with the hashtag #walk4eva showed supporters gathering on Merrion Street, as Roopesh spoke to the media alongside his daughter.

“My goal is to keep pressure on the government,” he told us yesterday.

“I want to see a change in the Irish school system where being human comes before a child’s religion.”

Discrimination 

The vast majority of primary schools in Ireland are owned by religious denominations. The taxpayer, however, pays for the bulk of the building and running costs.

In an Ipsos MRBI poll for The Irish Times earlier this year, the majority of respondents agreed that children should have equal access to school places whether or not they had been baptised.

 Read: New religion curriculum to shake up classes at Catholic schools>

Read: Non religious parents are being discriminated against by our outdated school system>

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