UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

In 2005 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination raised concern with the Irish State regarding the Admission policies in National schools. Section 7 3 (c) of the Equal Status Act permits schools with a religious ethos to give preference to co-religionists in the event of a shortage of places.  The vast majority of schools in Ireland operate with a religious ethos.

The Committee stated that:-

“18. The Committee, noting that almost all primary schools are run by Catholic groups and that non-denominational or multi-denominational schools represent less than 1% of the total number of primary educational facilities, is concerned that existing laws and practice would favour Catholic pupils in the admission to Catholic schools in case of shortage of places, particularly in the light of the limited alternatives available. (article 5(d)(vii) and 5(e)(v)) The Committee, recognising the “intersectionality” of racial and religious discrimination, encourages the State party to promote the establishment of nondenominational or multi-denominational schools and to amend the existing legislative framework so that no discrimination may take place as far as the admission of pupils (of all religions) in schools is concerned.”

The Irish State ignored the UN and in 2008 a school opened in Balbriggan, Co Dublin where the majority of its pupils had parents from Nigeria.

In 2011 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination again raised the issue of discrimination in school admissions with the Irish State.

The Committee stated that:-

“26. The Committee recalls its previous concluding observations (CERD/C/IRL/CO/2)and notes with concern that the education system in the State party is still largelydenominational and is mainly dominated by the Catholic Church. The Committee further notes that non-denominational or multi-denominational schools represent only a small percentage of the total, and regrets that, according to reports, there are not enough alternative schools, and students of the Catholic faith are favoured for enrolment into Catholic schools over students of other faiths in case of shortage of places. The Committee further expresses its regret that the provisions of the Equal Status Act give the power to schools to refuse to admit students to denominational schools on grounds of religion, if it is deemed necessary to protect the ethos of the school. (arts. 2, 5(d)(vii) and 5(e)(v))Recognizing the ‘intersectionality’ between racial and religious discrimination, the Committee reiterates its previous concluding observations (CERD/C/IRL/CO/2) and recommends that the State party accelerate its efforts to establish alternative non-denominational or multi-denominational schools and to amend the existing legislation that inhibits students from enrolling into a school because of their faith or belief. The Committee further recommends that the State party encourage diversity and tolerance of other faiths and beliefs in the education system by monitoring incidents of discrimination on the basis of belief. “

The EU Race Directive refers to the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and recognises that equality before the law and protection against discrimination is a universal right.

The Race Directive states:-

“(3) The right to equality before the law and protection against discrimination for all persons constitutes a universal right recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination and the United Nations Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, to which all Member States are signatories.”

Despite the concerns of the UN to date the Irish state has done nothing to remove discrimination in school admissions.

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