Proposals to End ‘Baptism Barrier’ Welcomed by Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“The Commission”) has welcomed legislative proposals published by Government to give practical effect to the existing right of children to be protected from discrimination in admission to schools, removing the effective “baptism barrier.”

The Commission today welcomed the proposal, in line with its own recommendations in 2015 and 2016, to amend the Equal Status Act to give effect to the principle that no child should be given preferential access to a publicly funded school on the basis of their religion.  This is with due regard to the particular requirements of children of minority faiths.

The Commission, has used its statutory functions to make consistent recommendations to Oireachtas Members on the implications for human rights and equality of the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill. Through these legislative submissions, the Commission has emphasised the need for equity of access, parental choice, and human rights principles in respect of pluralism, inclusivity, and the best interests of the child.

The Commission has also exercised its legal powers in the Courts as amicus curiae (friend of the Court) in the pivotal Stokes Case to focus on the need to ensure that the children of Travellers, new arrivals to an area, and people with disabilities must not be excluded through the use of preferential existing connections-based criteria by schools.

The Commission will continue to engage with Oireachtas Members on this important legislation, as it progresses through the Houses of the Oireachtas to become law.

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“Parents have expressed that they feel under pressure to baptise children in order to access schools. The Commission welcomes the proposed amendments, which once enacted in law will see equality in schools’ admissions policies, and ensure that children can have equity of access.

“Ireland is a diverse country and that diversity must be reflected in our schools as much as in our society. These proposed amendments set out that discrimination cannot be a systemic feature of our education system.”

ENDS/

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Notes to editor:

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has made several submissions to Oireachtas Members in relation to schools’ admissions:

The Commission has also exercised its legal functions in this regard:

Commission Amicus Curiae Submission: Mary Stokes v. Christian Brothers High School Clonmel & Ors https://www.ihrec.ie/documents/mary-stokes-v-christian-brothers-high-school-clonmel-ors-13-dec-2012/

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

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