Schools Admissions policies: Separate Church and State
By Robert Cosgrave
On Sunday, October 25 hundreds of people came out on the streets of Dublin to protest against the continued dominance of the Catholic Church in the Irish education system. Similarly in an online poll for the Irish Times released this year the majority of participants agreed that equal access to schools should be given to all children, whether the child is baptised or not. This shows the desire in Ireland for an education system without the hegemonic spectre of the Catholic Church pervading over it.
Catholic Church dominance
Nowhere in education is the need for removal of the Catholic Church and other religious institutions more evident than in school admissions policies. The Equal Status Act introduced by the Fianna Fáil government in 2000 allows for a school to refuse a student if said refusal is “essential to maintain the ethos of the school.” This allows the 90% of schools run by the Catholic Church to refuse any child admission on a sectarian basis, and they very frequently do, with stories about non-Catholic children, particularly the children of migrants, being refused admission into a school for not being a baptised Catholic being disgracefully common.
It is not just Fianna Fáil that is guilty of perpetuating this control, the Fine Gael-Labour government have made no attempt in during their term in government to make any concrete change to education, other than making it more expensive. The Admission to Schools Bill 2015 does nothing to mend the injustices of the Equal Status Act. Fairness in education becoming another election promise broken by Labour.
Separate Church and State
The Catholic Church and Irish capitalism have always been inextricably linked, indeed the weakness of Irish capitalism facilitated Church control over education in this country. We need a radical left government that is willing to separate Church and State and the rule of the backward capitalist establishment in this country