The Irish State cannot absolve itself of the responsibility to protect the human rights of secular parents and their children.

The Irish state absolves itself of the responsibility to educate and delegates that responsibility to private bodies and institutions. The state ‘provides for’ education through private bodies. The majority of these private bodies are religious and consequently the majority of schools in Ireland are Catholic.

Secular parents have no choice but to send their children to religious schools, where opting out of religion is a theoretical illusion. Complaining to the Dept of Education will get you nowhere as they simply refer you to the agents of a foreign state (the Catholic patron body).

Secular parents have no effective remedy to vindicate their human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 as schools in Ireland are not considered ‘organs of the state’. In this Republic we ignore the human rights of secular parents and their children and treat them as second class citizens.

In a recent Submission to the European Court the Irish Human Rights Commission has stated that:-

“20. A serious question arises in the present application as to whether the State has maintained a sufficient level of control over publicly funded national schools to ensure that the rights enshrined under the Convention, namely Articles 3, 8, 13 and Article 2 of protocol 1, are fully upheld within the education system.”

“27. In the Supreme Court Judgement it was suggested that there was no legal obligation on the Applicant’s parents to send her to the national school she attended or another similar school. It is respectfully submitted that his element f the Supreme Court Judgment, (which refers to the constitutional right of parents to educate their children at home, or to send their children to a school of their choice) did not refer to the criminal penalties under the 1926 Act or indeed reflect the every day reality of the education system in Ireland. In practice, a negligible number of children are home schooled, no doubt as there are very few parents with the means, competence or desire to do so. The reference, therefore, to home schooling and private schooling are far outside the norm in relation to the education of children. This passage of the Judgement does not appear to take full cognisance of the compulsory nature of education, both by reference to the Constitution and by statue as outlined above.”

The European court has already found that States cannot absolve themselves of their responsibly to protect the human rights of all parents and children in the education system. The State ignores these obligations and continues to claim that it complies with all its human rights obligations.

In Costello Roberts v UK (Application no. 13134/87) 25 March 1993 the European Court has stated that:-

“27…..Secondly, in the United Kingdom, independent schools co-exist with a system of public education. The fundamental right of everyone to education is a right guaranteed equally to pupils in State and independent schools, no distinction being made between the two (see, mutatis mutandis, the above-mentioned Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen and Pedersen judgment, Series A no. 23, p. 24, para. 50).

Thirdly, the Court agrees with the applicant that the State cannot absolve itself from responsibility by delegating its obligations to private bodies or individuals (see, mutatis mutandis, the Van der Mussele v. Belgium judgment of 23 November 1983, Series A no. 70, pp. 14-15, paras. 28-30).”

The time has come for this Republic to guarantee and protect the human rights of all parents and children in the education system. If the state continues to ‘provide for’ the education of minorities in religious schools it must guarantee and protect their human rights.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Breandán Mac Séarraigh September 07, 2013

    I was the leas-chathaoirleach of the Board of Management of a Gaelscoil, one of the few under the patronage of the (non-religious) Bord Patrúnaiochta na Gaelscoileanna. After moving to another town I stood for election to the Board of Parents and Governors of a Roman Catholic controlled Gaelscoil. I didn’t get elected, which I don’t mind but I seriously doubt I ever had a chance and that the kibosh was put on my candidacy by the controller of the school, the local priest. Still, my children are hard at work undermining all the good work of the clergy, including attending first holy communion but not taking the wafer! My little atheist fifth columnists!

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