UN to question Ireland on the rights of children in Irish schools

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has published its List of Issues for when it next questions Ireland.

Atheist Ireland made a joint submission to this process, along with the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Ireland.

The UN Committee has now asked the Irish State a number of questions in relation to the Irish education system. These questions are based on our joint Submission. They are:


Please provide information on:

(a) The impact of relevant strategies in eliminating discrimination against children such as the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021, the Migrant Integration Strategy, the LGBTI+ Youth Strategy 2018-2020 and the National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021;
(b) Progress achieved in updating hate crime legislation and developing a national action plan against racism, and whether such processes include the participation of children;
(c) Measures taken to eliminate, in practice, discrimination against children belonging to ethnic minorities, including Traveller and Roma children; children of minority faith or non-faith backgrounds; children with disabilities; children living in poverty, including those experiencing homelessness; LGBTI children; refugee, asylum-seeking and migrant children; children with an irregular migration status; and children of unmarried parents.”

“Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Please inform the Committee on the measures taken to ensure accessible options for children to opt out of religious classes and access appropriate alternatives to such classes, in accordance with the needs of children of minority faith or non-faith backgrounds.”

Adolescent health

Please provide information on the measures taken to:..” Ensure comprehensive, age-appropriate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights, including information on family planning, contraceptives and the risks related to early pregnancies, as well as the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections;
(d) Raise awareness of and foster responsible parenthood and sexual behaviour, with particular attention to boys and men;
(e) Address the incidence of drug and alcohol use by adolescents, including through the implementation of the 2018 Public Health (Alcohol) Act.”


Please inform the Committee about:

“Assess the impact of the 2018 Education (Admission to Schools) Act in ensuring children’s right to education without discrimination, including in cases where admission can be denied on religious grounds;
(c) Increase the availability of non-denominational and multi-denominational schools;
(d) Monitor and regulate the use of suspension, exclusion and reduced timetables in schools, and prevent the disproportionate use of reduced timetables for Traveller children, children with disabilities and children with mental health needs;
(e) Revise the content of sexual and reproductive health education to include material on non-discrimination, contraception, gender stereotypes, and sexual orientation and gender identity;”

High Court case in 1996

It is worth noting that in the High Court in 1996, Justice Costello said that parents in Ireland had more rights than those guaranteed under various human rights treaties. Yet here we are, twenty-four years, later still trying to access our human rights as successive governments have simply failed to protect our Constitutional and human rights.

Justice Costello stated that:

“…The parties to the First Protocol of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms agreed that States when assuming functions in relation to education “shall respect the rights of parents to ensure such education and teaching in accordance with their own religious and philosophical convictions” (Article 2). The Irish Constitution has developed the significance of these parental rights and in addition has imposed obligations on the State in relation to them.” (Justice Costello – High Court – Campaign to Separate Church and State 1996 p.38).

Atheist Ireland will continue to challenge the Irish state in relation to the education system and their failure to protect Constitutional and human rights.



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