No baptism, no school: Irish parents fight for equal access to education
Posted by doctore0 on October 22, 2015
Instead of starting school last month, Reuben Murphy found himself back in his Dublin nursery for another year as his mother, Nikki, re-embarked on her quest to find a place at a local state primary for her four-year-old son.
She has already applied to 15 schools. But, following rejections from nine last year, Murphy is far from confident that a place will be found for Reuben. In a country where more than 90% of state schools are run by the Catholic church, unbaptised children like him are at the bottom of their admissions lists.
“I’m desperate,” said Murphy. “I’ve met tons of parents who’ve baptised their children just to get a school place. We thought about it, but it goes against our conscience. I feel it would be an abuse of other people’s deeply held religious beliefs.”
A drive to repeal the legislation that allows Irish schools to operate admissions criteria based on faith is gathering momentum. More than 16,000 people have backed a petition to be presented to parliament in the next couple of weeks, and campaigners are determined to raise the issue of unbaptised children in next year’s general election.
According to Paddy Monahan, a Dublin barrister who launched the petition, the law is an unconstitutional anachronism in a country that saw the second biggest drop globally in those claiming to be religious in recent years. A WIN-Gallup global poll (pdf) found that 47% of Irish respondents identified themselves as religious in 2011, compared with 69% in 2005 – a drop of 22%, exceeded only by the fall in Vietnam. Non-Catholic immigration to Ireland has further diluted the church’s hegemony.