Time for a Citizens Assembly on Educational Patronage

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
02 April 2019

Labour Spokesperson for Education Sen. Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has reiterated his call for a Citizens’ Assembly to be reconvened to consider changes to our Constitution to address religious control of the education system.

Senator Ó Ríordáin said; 

“The latest row over patronage in North County Dublin shows the need for a Citizens Assembly on Education. The fact that such a  process is being objected to by parents highlights the fact that we are not yet at a point to bring communities with us on secular education. We need to bring families and communities with us on this issue, which is why I believe it is time for a Citizens Assembly on Educational Patronage. 

“I am calling on 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.

“There has been a huge amount of success in recent years using the Citizens Assembly model to help progress issues of change in Irish life; Marriage Equality and the Repeal of the Eight Amendment being just two examples. In both of those cases, the Citizens Assembly process gave the public the necessary facts, and space, to discuss important issues facing the county.

“Creating secular educations systems will require more than Department directives and even willing patrons; school communities and parents support will be needed also. 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 legislative and policy changes introduced to date on how we hire teachers, allow schools to enroll 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.”

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