If Citizens’ Assembly is to reconvene role of Church in Education must be a priority discussion

05 September 2018

Labour Party Education spokesperson, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, has said if the Government is to convene another Citizens’ Assembly, then it must examine the relationship of Church and State. 

Senator Ó Ríordáin said:

“With Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil trying to decide if they’ll take the plunge and give Confidence and Supply one more try, the policy proposals by Fine Gael ministers been announced over the airwaves seem to falling through the cracks.

“This morning on RTÉ Radio One, Minister Regina Doherty said another Citizens’ Assembly would be likely. If the Citizens’ Assembly is to meet again, then it is imperative that it would examine the relationship between Church and State.

“With the Association of Trustees for Catholic Schools warning the Minister for Education that schools may not be able to abide to his circular that those who opt out of Religion classes should be time tabled for another subject, it is clear that the current system of opting out of faith formation/religion classes is not up to scratch. 

“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.

“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.

“This summer, parents up and down the country have been signing my petition to re-convene the Citizens’ Assembly to examine the role of Church and State in our schools. From speaking to many parents and indeed students on this issue, it is clear that there is no simple answer to this complex issue. It is time for the Government to commit to referring this issue to the Citizens’ Assembly so it can be dealt with by experts and by ordinary citizens of our State.”


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