– Party outlines education policy priorities at inaugural national conference –

The Social Democrats have called for repeal of Section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act, the clause that means the majority of State-funded schools can refuse children from different faiths or non-religious backgrounds.

At the Party’s inaugural national conference today (19.11.16), Róisín Shortall TD, co-leader of the Social Democrats, called for an end to the ‘baptism barrier’ that allows State-funded schools to “discriminate against children as young as four”.

“It is time to finally end this outdated discrimination,” she said.  “One of the most fundamental principles of a republic is that citizens are not discriminated against because of any faith they do or don’t profess.  Yet, every year, religious affiliation is the very basis on which access is denied to a vital public service: education.

“The law of the land, as it currently stands, is that State-funded schools are perfectly entitled to refuse entry to children as young as four because they are not signed up to a particular religious belief.  Even schools that accommodate children of different faiths, or no faith, continue to expose those children to a religious ethos to which they do not subscribe.  This is entirely unacceptable.”

Deputy Shortall said it was time for Ireland’s education system to “reflect and respect the diversity of Irish society”.  

“We have long moved on from organised religion dominating the lives of a large proportion of people.  Laws and public services need to catch up.  It is a key priority of the Social Democrats to repeal Section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act.  

“Incredibly, the Government’s School Admissions Bill, currently going through the Dáil, ignores the baptism barrier.  It is time to finally end this outdated discrimination and we will be tabling amendments to this Bill to that effect.”

Other Education Priorities

In addition to ending religious discrimination in schools, the Social Democrats highlighted a range of education priorities at today’s event.  These include:

  • Addressing pay inequality in the education sector.  
  • Steadily reducing primary school class-sizes to the EU average of 20.
  • Making primary education free by funding school books, school transport, and classroom resources.
  • Investing in Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) and restoring resource teacher hours.  
  • Connecting every school with fibre broadband and funding ICT hardware and software for education.
  • Reducing third-level fees and progressively increasing funding for higher education to achieve EU-average funding levels.   

“As a small country in an increasingly globalised and competitive world, Ireland’s education system can be our greatest competitive advantage,” said Deputy Shortall.  “It’s clear that significant investment in education at all levels is required to address the chronic underfunding and cuts of recent years, and to maintain, protect and enhance the quality of our educational outcomes.”

Further information about the Social Democrats’ national conference is available at www.socialdemocrats.ie.  


Contact: Martina Quinn / Emily Brennan, Alice PR & Events, Tel: 087-6522033 / 086-1658629, Email: media@alicepr.com

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