Seamus McDonagh

WP Meath representative Seamus McDonagh

A consultation process on the ‘baptism barrier’ in primary school admissions, launched today (16th January) by education Minister Richard Bruton, has come under fire for being a “consultation on whether or not to segregate children”.

Speaking following the launch of the consultation process, Workers’ Party representative Séamus McDonagh said that: “It is welcome that the government is finally taking steps to address the current situation, where parents applying for primary school placements for their children face barriers because their faith, or lack thereof.”

“However, the consultation process lays out options which include allowing schools to retain the right to exclude children based on religion. This is not something that should be up for discussion – it amounts to segregation, and breaches children’s’ rights to equal access to education.”

McDonagh said that, on matters of human rights, consultation is never the way to proceed: “On some matters – and equality in education is one of those – basic human rights must form the basis for legislation. No consultation process should be used by our elected representatives to deflect from their responsibility to tackle the continued segregation by religion of children in Irish schools.

McDonagh concluded: “Today’s conference was about equality in education, but if we are ever to achieve such equality it can only be done if all children receive exactly the same chance in life and the same educational opportunities. “This includes complete separation of church & state, first and foremost in education, and indeed ending state funding to private schools, which are inaccessible to many.”

Concluding, Mr. McDonagh said that there were other barriers to education which were not being addressed at all by the minister. : “Despite this today’s announcement parents applying for primary school placements for their children in the coming years will still face a range of barriers to that child’s attendance in particular schools.  Many schools continue to discriminate against children from working class backgrounds or who live in particular areas.”

“Other schools give preference to children whose parents and grandparents previously attended the school or exclude children who do not show prowess on the playing field or whose aptitude is more artistic and creative than academic.  These distinctions must also be made illegal”, said Seamus McDonagh