04 May 2017

Labour spokesperson for Education and Skills, Joan Burton TD, has hit out at Fine Gael for trying once again to delay giving local children places in their local schools.

Deputy Burton said:

“We’ve seen from media reports today that there is serious internal pressure in the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party for further delaying tactics on lifting the baptism barrier in order to give local children access to their local schools.

“Fine Gael TDs and Senators are seeking further discussion but it has been nearly a year since the Labour Party Bill was debated in the House, and these proposals have been open for public debate for some time before that.

“Last June Labour proposed, and the Dáil debated our Bill to amend the Equal Status Act and redress the imbalance between the right to maintain denominational schools and the rights of children to receive a secular education in a State-funded school.

“The Labour Party Bill will automatically pass second stage on the 28th June, which is less than four weeks from today.

“Frankly it is unacceptable that the Government would seek to delay these changes any longer. We have already missed the window of opportunity to change the law to impact next year’s school admissions.

“This means now that at the earliest any law change would apply would be in September 2018, if it was agreed in the months to come, but looking at what we have seen so far, it may be delayed even further to 2019/2020 school year.

“State-funded schools must be prepared in principle and in practice to accept pupils from other denominations or none, and to provide separate secular and religious instruction.

“We know that Minister Bruton is constantly trying to kick the issue of removing the baptism barrier down the road but now is the time to take action on this archaic system.”

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