Labour Party Calls for Prohibition of Enrollment Policies Based on Religion in Catholic Schools

Country: Ireland

Date of incident: February 1, 2012

According to an Irish Labor party proposal to be discussed in April, ‘Catholics first’ policy in state-funded Catholic schools is illegal, discriminatory and should be abolished.

The proposal is contained in a report focusing on the church's role in national schools across the country, which has been drafted by party activists and adopted by a constituency council in Dublin. The document, which is called 'Illegal Religious Discrimination in National Schools in Ireland recommends a number of proposals, including that ‘Catholics first’ admission policies be abolished for state-funded Catholic schools. It claims enrollment policies by state-funded Catholic schools which prioritize Catholic children in case of over-inscription are discriminatory. Report author and party activist John Suttle claims enrollment policies based on religion were never allowed under the law. He said: "When it comes to state-supported schools in the primary sector, religious discrimination on entry is illegal and is not allowed under anything." However, the Equal Status Act explicitly permits denominational schools to admit those of their own faith first. The primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, said that the Catholic Church remained committed “to providing Catholic Schools to cater for the needs of parents who wish to exercise their constitutional right to the provision of faith education”. He said the Church held the view “that the children of Catholic parents have first claim on admission to Catholic schools, just as Protestant children have first claim to admission to Protestant schools, and Muslim children have first claim to admission to Islamic schools and so on”.