IHRC asks UN to ask Ireland about non-faith children in education system

In their Submission to the UN Human Rights Committee on Ireland’s Fourth Periodic Report under the ICCPR –(List of Issues Stage) the Irish Human Rights Commission has raised the issue of the human rights of non-faith children in Irish schools.

In 2008 the UN Human Rights Committee raised concern regarding the human rights of secular parents and their children. The human rights they referred to were:-

The right to Freedom of Conscience.

The right to be free from Discrimination.

The rights of the Child.

The right to Equality before the Law.


The Irish state has done nothing since 2008 to protect the rights of minorities in the Irish Education system. The Forum on Patronage and Pluralism recommended that as a first step Rule 68 of the Rules for National Schools should be removed. The IHRC are recommending that Section 15 of the Education be amended to ensure that the curriculum is delivered in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner. They are also concerned about discrimination in enrolment and employment in schools.

The following is part of the Submission of the Irish Human Rights Commission to the UN Human Rights Committee.

“Issue 12

Religion and Education (Articles 2, 18, 24, 26)

In 2008, the Committee recommended that the State “increase its efforts to ensure that non-denominational primary education is widely available in all regions of the State party, in view of the increasingly diverse and multi-ethnic composition of the population of the State party.”(paragraph 22)

Issue Summary

41. The IHRC has given a large amount of consideration to the issue of religion and education in Ireland since 2008. The issue of access to and participation in education for all children regardless of religious or philosophical belief has also been much debated in Ireland since the Committee’s last examination of the State. The IHRC held wide consultations on this issue in 2011 and made a number of recommendations to the Government.

It also met with the Government appointed Forum on Pluralism and Patronage in Primary Schools. The IHRC continues to be concerned that equality legislation permits schools to discriminate both in respect of enrolment of children and also in employment in schools on the basis of religious ethos and the potential deterrent effect this has on those of minority faith or background or those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender from taking up employment or training as teachers.

42. The IHRC highlighted its concerns to the CERD Committee in its submission in 2010 and in the context of UPR.


Suggested Questions

43. The Committee may wish to ask the State what steps it is taking to provide for modifications to the integrated curriculum to ensure that the rights of minority faith or non-faith children are also recognised in the Education Act 1998 (section 15) and to ensure that the information and knowledge included in the curriculum is conveyed in an objective, critical, pluralistic manner. The Committee may wish to ask the State what steps have been taken to codify and review the non-statutory Rules for National Schools 1965, to ensure that the relevant human rights standards are upheld. The Committee may further wish to ask the State what practical measures it has in place to ensure that no indoctrination or proselytism takes place in State -funded schools and to provide an accessible independent complaint handling mechanism to resolve disputes between parents and schools in this regard.”


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