Petition launched calling for Citizens’ Assembly on religious control of Education

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
17 July 2018

Labour Education spokesperson, Sen. Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has launched a petition seeking support for a Citizens’ Assembly to be reconvened to consider changes to our Constitution to address religious control of the education system.

The petition is available at: https://www.labour.ie/act

Senator Ó Ríordáin said:

“It’s time for a national conversation about how we achieve a modern, secular and equality-based education system for the Ireland of today, and what we hope to achieve for tomorrow.

“Ireland is different now compared to when our constitution was written, when the role of religion in our education system was enshrined through Articles 42 and 44. Religion should not be the overarching principle that underpins our education system, nor should it be the way by which children are segregated at a young age.

“The reality is that patrons run the show in Irish education, not the Department and not the Minister. More than 95% of primary schools are run by religious denominations.

“Instead of a public education system, we have a State funded education system which farms out responsibility for the running of schools to patron bodies.

“Patrons are empowered by various articles in the constitution which have been interpreted as affirming the right of parents to have their children educated through the ethos of their choice.

“What I am asking for is public support for this petition to convince the Government to reconvene a Citizens’ Assembly that would examine the ownership and control of our education system, and the influence of Articles 42 and 44 of Bunreacht na hÉireann.

“The legislative and policy changes introduced to date on how we hire teachers, allow schools enrol pupils, and how patronage is awarded and divested, are limited by our basic law. To fundamentally change our education system, the Constitution must change, and that should start with a meaningful and considered analysis, discussion and debate through a Citizens’ Assembly.

“When this was raised with the Taoiseach in the Dáil he said ‘it is certainly something the Minister for Education and I will consider’ but no action has been taken.

“To have religious control discussed at a Citizens’ Assembly we need public support, to show that there is a broad movement of people who want this issue considered once and for all.

“I am asking people across Ireland to add their name to this petition. This is a complex area of law and public policy. There is no one simple answer, but surely it is time we fully considered this in a public and transparent process.”

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