Is the Republic a secular or a religious state?

Turkey is scene of some of the most explicit tensions between a jealously secular republic and its post Islamist government (Morning Ireland). But, however faint, there may be similar echoes in the Irish Republic. Indeed, Conor Lenihan was somewhat stumped when when after asserting that Sikh Garda officers could not wear their turbans because they could not display religious symbols, Will Crawley asked whether such a ban should not also apply to crucifixes and crosses? It’s a theme ably followed up by Fintan O’Toole in today’s Irish Times:

For my own part, I do not think Sikh officers should be allowed to wear turbans, or Muslim officers allowed to wear hijabs. I entirely agree with Garda spokesman Kevin Donohue when he says that “the person standing in front of you should be representative of the police force – not a Sikh police officer, not a Catholic police officer, not a Jewish police officer”.

Such a stance can be hard on Sikhs and members of other faiths, but it is the only way to avoid a Balkanisation of State services, not just in the Garda or Army, but in schools, hospitals, the Dáil and the courts. The preservation of a public realm that everyone enters equally as a citizen is a value of greater importance than any individual’s right to express a personal identity while performing a State service.

The problem is that this State has absolutely no right to take such a stance. So long as we refuse even to discuss a non-sectarian education system, so long as we evoke a specific religious belief system in every aspect of our system of governance, we have no right to tell anyone that they have to keep their religion separate from their public function. Unless we are to practise naked discrimination, the logic of our current system is that our police officers can wear turbans, hijabs or Jedi light sabres – anything that is required by their faith. We also have to provide a range of religious schools in every community, all paid for by the taxpayer. We have to start Dáil sessions not with one prayer, but with at least 25 – one for each of the main religious groupings in the State – and with an atheist evocation of humanist principles.

Or we could just cop on to ourselves and start creating a public realm in which all religions are respected because none is invoked.

,

  • Slightly shocked to find myself on the same side as Fintan O’Toole. I think the need to debate the religious control of the southern education system is particularly acute.

    Worth noting though that Saturday’s Irish Times reported that:
    “The Garda is to review the wearing of ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday, of crucifixes and of pioneer pins with the official uniform, a spokesman for the Garda has confirmed.”

    A good first step.

  • slug

    The effects of immigration on life on the island of Ireland are fascinating.

  • Oiliféar

    A point that is overlooked: Sikhs are not required to wear a turban. They are required to not cut their hair. There are two very different things and, I for one, don’t care how long a guard’s hair is.

    Very disappointing headline, Mark, and the leading two sentences that link the Republic and Turkey are downright ignorant if not verging on insane. Do you honestly believe that such tensions, however “faint” as you call them, exist in the Republic?

    A “non-sectarian education system”? First, religious schools are slowly being taken over by communities as the religious orders decline in number. Second, I don’t know of any that discriminate against entry on the basis of religion – as far as I know, unlike north of the border and east across the water, it is illegal for a school in receipt of state funding to do so (no?). Third, I don’t know of anyone who could really give a damn because religion is just plainly a non-issue.

    As for starting Dáil sessions with a prayer – scrap it – but is this not also standard practice in a certain jurisdiction where the head of state is also the head of the established church?

    Of course, none of these would be reasons to tip off a supposedly informed blog with the question, “Is England a secular or a religious state?” Seriously, grow up.

  • Otto

    The Republic started off in 1921 as almost a client state for the Vatican but is now almost completely secular,the under 30`s down there have little or no interest in religion in any shape or form. Good on them. Divorce has been legal for years now and the recent paedophile skandal regarding their priests has really damaged any remaining influence the Church ever had upon it`s populace. To be frank, all the past legitimate reasons for northern protestsnts rejecting a united Ireland are eroding away. We live in a rapidly changing country.

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s Mick Oiliféar. The question for the Republic arises from Lenihan’s logic that as an officer of the Republic a Garda would be required to eschew all religious symbols, rather than out any binary with the UK.

    See this note on Whataboutery as a tactic for evading awkward questions.

  • George

    O’Toole sees a chance to beat his drum in favour of state-run education rather than the parental choice we have now.

    Parental choice and the fact that virtually every “Catholic” school is now mixed, is leading to, as Oiliféar mentions, the beginning of the end for purely Catholic school boards.

    As things are in 2007, schools are not sectarian but the boards that run them are.

    The changes all too slow for my liking but it’s hardly surprising this area isn’t keeping up with the pace of change Ireland is undergoing.

    But it is happening and is the right way to go. I don’t want an education system devoid of religion and I don’t believe the majority of people in Ireland, north and south, do.

    Even good old Sweden is moving away from state-run education and towards the Irish education model of parental choice.

    As for taking the references to a Christian God out of the Constitution, I seem to recall the PDs wanted that one. Once again, I don’t know if the majority in Ireland want that one.

    The Garda, meanwhile, look like they’ll be banning the crucifixes and ashes on Ash Wednesday.

  • Oiliféar

    Apologies, Mick, but didn’t I mean any “whataboutery.” In terms of the Republic, I answered all questions in relation to the Republic. Comparasions with England were intended to demonstrate the insanity of the headline (leading to the last paragraph), not to argue “we can’t be bad because you’re worse.” It’s the headline that’s bad, not the UK or Ireland.

  • Oiliféar, it’s entirely legal for Catholic schools in the 26 Counties to admit children only upon production of their baptismal certificate. Because of oversubscription an increasing number of them are doing so and, in fact, it’s been reported that some non-religious parents are having their children baptised for that reason alone.

    Also:

    religious schools are slowly being taken over by communities as the religious orders decline in number

    At last glance, 95% of primary schools here were still run by the Catholic church.

  • Oiliféar

    … the headline and two leading sentences.

  • Garibaldy

    As O’Toole points out, far from being secular enough. As for parental choice, individual rights must be balanced against the good of the society that guarantees those rights. Abolish religious education.

  • kensei

    “As O’Toole points out, far from being secular enough. As for parental choice, individual rights must be balanced against the good of the society that guarantees those rights. Abolish religious education. ”

    Or alternatively, the state should keep it’s nose out of parental choices.

  • Garibaldy

    Kensei,

    Not if what has come to be called parental choice (a Thatcherite buzzword for the state abrogating its responsibilities if ever I saw it) is damaging to the fabric of society. As it has been in the north. And has the potential to be in an increasingly more diverse south. And as it will be if that moron Blair’s plans for more faith schools in the UK come to pass.

  • Oiliféar

    Wednesday, I find you that you are right. From the “Equal Status Act” 2000:

    “(3) An educational establishment does not discriminate under subsection (2) by reason only that—

    (c) where the establishment is a school providing primary or post-primary education to students and the objective of the school is to provide education in an environment which promotes certain religious values, it admits persons of a particular religious denomination in preference to others or it refuses to admit as a student a person who is not of that denomination and, in the case of a refusal, it is proved that the refusal is essential to maintain the ethos of the school,”

    It was apparantly not until 2000 that such decisions were possible (Educate Together). I now wonder to what extent they occur. What does a school have to do to “prove” that the “the refusal is essential”? Off the bat it would read as if it would act more in protection of Church of Ireland schools (by preserving numbers), but I wonder how a Catholic school could get away with it and do you know of any reported examples?

  • Oiliféar

    … ah, just reread line before about “refusals” – a school can discriminate “in preference to others”, so I suppose an over-subscribed school can take a “Catholics first” policy. Shocking.

    Has it caused problems that anyone knows of?

  • confused

    People talk of parental choice in education as if they decided the Church should have a part to play.
    What nonsense! The Church assumed authority at the formation of the state and had no consultation with the laity.
    The Church’s aim was to create a catholic ethos in our schools irrespective of the views of parents, but as most of the parents were Catholic there was no objection.
    Things are now moving so fast that education should be run by the State.
    Let the parents have an opportunity to speak.

  • Oiliféar, read that text from the Equal Status Act closely. The school only has to prove that the refusal is essential in cases where it can’t use as an excuse that there are no places left for the student because Catholic children were given priority. The problem these days is that so many schools are oversubscribed, it’s quite easy for them to fill up all their available spaces with Catholic children, and then they can just say “Sorry, no room for the rest of youse.”

    I’ve heard of a number of such cases anecdotally, but proof that it is actually the schools’ policy in Dublin can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/2uo688

  • George

    Garibaldy,
    “parental choice (a Thatcherite buzzword for the state abrogating its responsibilities if ever I saw it)”

    It’s been around for 70 years in Ireland and is enshrined in the Constitution. It means the parents (aka the taxpayers) decide how their children are educated and the State (aka their servants) provide it.

  • Unfortunately George, as the Educate Together crowd will tell you, the State isn’t doing very well at providing non-religious education to those parents who choose it.

  • Oiliféar

    Wednesday, thanks – disgraceful!

    The “refusals” bit I can understand and think it’s only right (nobody would want a rural Church of Ireland school with 10 pupils being flooded with 50-odd Catholics, that just wouldn’t be fair) – but the “preference” bit is a bit rich! Schools are a valuable resource, it’s not as if an over-subscribed Catholic school faces any real threat to its “ethos” from a handful of protestant, Muslims, Jews, athiests and non-give-a-crap-ers. It’s just plain wrong.

    On the other hand, it does put pressure on government to provide more school places to undercut the issue, but of course, as we all know, that’s no easy task with the population rocketing.

  • Garibaldy

    George,

    I see no sign of the phrase “parental choice” in the 1937 constitution. I do see that the constitution says that no family will be forced to send children to schools against their conscience. I don’t see where it says that the state has to pay for religious education. All of which is beside the point.

    We aren’t talking about what the constitution does say and what policy is, but what it should say and what policy should be. Perhaps we could start by removing the references to the Holy Trinity at the start of the constitution, and all the rest of the religious references in it to create a modern secular state.

  • kensei

    “Not if what has come to be called parental choice (a Thatcherite buzzword for the state abrogating its responsibilities if ever I saw it) is damaging to the fabric of society. As it has been in the north. And has the potential to be in an increasingly more diverse south. And as it will be if that moron Blair’s plans for more faith schools in the UK come to pass.”

    Why not go the whole hog and ban religion then, seeing as it is so divisive to our society?

  • Kensei, while nobody’s calling for religion to be banned, there is no need for the State to subsidise it. The Church can certainly well afford to cover its indoctrination from its own pocketbook.

    Another point on the religious ethos exemption is that it can be used as an excuse to discriminate against qualified teachers: http://tinyurl.com/3daklb

  • kensei

    “Kensei, while nobody’s calling for religion to be banned, there is no need for the State to subsidise it. The Church can certainly well afford to cover its indoctrination from its own pocketbook.”

    Are you prepared to give me a rebate on my taxes? If I now have to pay to send my child to a Catholic school (that pocket book will ultimately be the parishes), my taxes are subsidising other people’s kids. Hardly fair, is it?

    And if I want my future kids “indoctrinated”, well, it’s none of your business.

    “Another point on the religious ethos exemption is that it can be used as an excuse to discriminate against qualified teachers: http://tinyurl.com/3daklb

    There are several solutions to that problem short of the total removal of Catholic education.

  • George

    Garibaldy,

    Article 42.1
    “The State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the Family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children.”

    Supplemented by:

    Article 42.4

    The State shall provide for free primary education.

    In other words, the State will provide for the wishes of the primary educator – the parent.

  • Kensei:

    If I now have to pay to send my child to a Catholic school

    Did you read what I wrote? I said the Church should pay for it.

    if I want my future kids “indoctrinated”, well, it’s none of your business.

    It is if my taxes are paying for it.

    There are several solutions to that problem short of the total removal of Catholic education.

    Agreed. But those solutions aren’t likely to be implemented while the Church retains its stranglehold on the education system.

  • Garibaldy

    George,

    I read that part. Let’s look at this bit from 42.1 “parents to provide, according to their means”. It does it seems to me allow parents the right to provide for a religious education if they can. It does not say the state must pay for it, but that the state must provide primary education. That that education must be religious is not specified.

    Kensei,

    Society already regulates people’s relgious freedoms in order to protect societal cohesion. And it does ban certain types of religion it sees as harmful to society. The best example being of course human sacrifice, but extending also to polygamy etc. Or, in our own local context, people walking to and from religious service where others don’t want them walking. Therefore there is plenty of precedent to prohibit religion from having a role in education.

    Of course I don’t want religion banned. I’d even be happy to see, preferably as a transitional move but permanently if necessary, religious education classes according to denomination within schools that are integrated and run by the state. But religion is a personal matter. If it’s that important to people, let them spend the hour a day or less people get in religious education in scools inculcating at home, or at religious instruction run by the denominations for their members within their churches/mosques/synagogues etc.

    Education should be secular. The state should not support any type of religion.

  • Cuchulainn

    well i feared this blog would turn into a religion bashing thread, but lets try and not let it,

    as for thoses preaching against catholic education, i see no reasons fro the removal of it, as all its schools are open to anyone to join, religion class maybe be the only thing they be left out on,

    otherwise they are great schools, especially since its the catholic schools that are always producing the best marks when it comes to exams,

    there is no evil in teaching religion in schools as far as i know, and im sure people can be brought into schools to teach other faiths as well

  • Garibaldy

    Nobody’s bashing religion. Nor am I bashing Catholic education. I’m saying that the state should be the exclusive provider of education, and that education should be secular. As in fact should be the entire edifice of the state.

  • Photonics

    …there’s still a way to go to full secularization. Non-denominational/multi-denominational alternatives still continue to flourish, because the perceived and often real embedded culture of Catholic intolerance/prejudice has not been adequately explored or addressed. There needs to be a new management system put in place to once and for all banish the old inquisitorial mindset.

  • Oiliféar

    Wednesday, come on – it’s not all that bad! I’m as happy to have been educated in a school that had an “ethos” than one that was a flimsy state hole. It gives a rounder education that is an essential part of the Irish education system that is very difficult for a state school to emulate.

  • Cathal

    The question is not whether the republic is secular or not; it is, or should be, whether it is a republic or not. Republicanism anywhere outside Ireland is a theory of governemnt, a defining characteristic of which is the separation of Church and State. The republic here has signally failed to take this characteristic on. Instead, Irish Republicanism has been consumed by what is, in reality, a nationalist question – the (re-)unification of the island. True, the population of the republic has become increasingly secular, but the institutions of the state have not even attempted to keep pace. I agree, as I generally do, with O’Toole’s reading of the issues, but I accept that I also fail to be consistent – I would love to see the Garda and defence forces prevented from any displays of catholicism, and yet I would happily allow a Sikh garda to wear a turban.

  • George

    Garibaldy,
    of course there is no requirement for religion but if the parents choose to send their child to a religious school….

    That is why, for example, the Islamic school in Clonskeagh is state-funded. Obviously they would then have to provide Irish classes etc.

  • mick hall

    “Turkey is scene of some of the most explicit tensions between a jealously secular republic and its post Islamist government (Morning Ireland). ”

    Mick
    What the hell is a post islamic government, the terminology is nonsensical unless Islam in Turkey had been abolished. The governing party in Turkey the AK Party is a democratic islamic party, get used to it, call it what it is. The only reason you dress it up in pretty ribbons is because you are unable to see that an islamic party can be both islamic and democratic. To you all islamic parties are like the lunatic bin Laden. Or is it because Ak is pro capitalists so you have to find another terminology to justify doing business with it.

    By the way say what you will about the Turkish generals, but petty jealously is not one of there motivating factors. Believe it or not most of them genuinely believe the secular state is the best thing for Turkey and its people, and in truth history has proved them right on more than one occasion.

  • kensei

    “Did you read what I wrote? I said the Church should pay for it.”

    Yes. In the real world, that translates into me paying for it through collections at the parish.

    “It is if my taxes are paying for it.”

    Ah, so only your taxes get to make up policy and mine don’t count?

    I don’t want to pay for an army therefore there shouldn’t be one.

    I have private health insurance why should my taxes pay for public hospitals.

    Etc, etc etc.

    “Agreed. But those solutions aren’t likely to be implemented while the Church retains its stranglehold on the education system.”

    So nuke ’em. Great.

  • Rory

    The Catholic Church has no requirement that members of its laity dress in any way such as to identify their faith or requirements to adorn themselves with religious symbols so it would not be an infringement of a Catholic’s faith choice (or those of other Christian sects so far as I am aware) to ask that they not wear any such symbols during their time at work and particilarly if they are required to wear a singular uniform which identifies them as a servant of the state. So no impediment is set up by the state against their being a Catholic and performing as a state servant.

    For a Sikh however it is a requirement of the cultural tradition of his religion that a man wear a turban to encase his hair which his religion insists must remain uncut. To deny a Sikh the right to wear his turban therefore is to deny a Sikh admission to the ranks of the Gardai because he is a Sikh and that is discriminatory and ought to be, in my opinion, intolerable in an open, inclusive society.

    Besides which, who could possibly be offended? There is no record or history of Sikh wrongdoings in Ireland. My only experience of Sikhs until I came to Britain, was that they were the only “black” men I had ever seen and they went door to door with large leather suitcases from which they sold brushes and cleaning materials and dazzled all our mothers with their charm and bright smiles. I thought the turbans were pretty “cool”.

  • Oiliféar, I see absolutely no reason to make the assumption you’re making, that the state is incapable of providing an education equal to that provided by the Church. Of course it can do so if the effort is made.

    As for you Kensei –

    In the real world, that translates into me paying for it through collections at the parish.

    Please. It wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference to the Catholic Church if you stopped your donations. We are talking about one of the world’s wealthiest organisations, after all. And it didn’t amass all that wealth by passing the plate to ordinary parishioners during services.

    so only your taxes get to make up policy and mine don’t count?

    Again, that is not what I said. I said that it is my business where my taxes go. You’re free to argue, of course, that there are certain things you don’t want your taxes going to either, and I suspect that if I were to trawl the Slugger archives I’d eventually find you doing just that, but I can’t really be arsed. My point is simply that it’s ludicrous to claim that it’s “none of my business” how public funding is spent.

    I won’t even bother replying to your last comment, for reasons too obvious to mention.

  • The Dubliner

    I see no problem allowing religious symbols to be worn, providing they are discreet. For example, wedding rings are religious symbols with profound significance within religious betrothal ceremonies, not non-secular items of jewellery signifying only non-denominational civic marriages. Telling Gardia to remove their rings because some zealot belief in a non-secular state is an abuse of the state’s power to the detriment of the individual. It is plainly stupid to start equating pioneer pins, crucifixes, wedding rings, etc, with turbans and hijabs (or any religion that requires its followers to observe nakedness at all times). Still, journalists are paid to be stupid, so as long as they confine their beliefs to the print of newspapers and not the print of government legislation, who cares?

  • Oiliféar

    Wednesday, the reason I think so is from observation around my own town. It should be plainly obvious that the religiously-inclined have an “ethos” – be they Mercy, De La Salle, Church of Ireland, Jewish or Islamic. That is a very difficult thing to start up from scratch – not impossible, but very difficult. It’s a quality of a school that can be passed down through generations of principals, and even, eventually, or so I hope, into the hands of the community. With it in place, whether they worship a different spaghetti monster or none, it’s a quality that is beneficial to the pupils of the school.

    State schools (as distinct from community schools inherited from religious orders) would be fine, but they would need an equally heavy clout of “ethos”/ideology. I don’t know where that would come from. I don’t doubt that it would be impossible, but it would require a great deal of work to nurture, and maybe now’s the time to start planning it.

  • gram

    >To deny a Sikh the right to wear his turban therefore is to deny a Sikh admission to the ranks of the Gardai because he is a Sikh and that is discriminatory and ought to be, in my opinion, intolerable in an open, inclusive society.<

  • abucs

    So are people advocating increased taxes to pay for the land and building of new schools ?

    Or are you advocating the forced theft of Catholic premises ?

  • Cuchulainn

    Ireland offically is still catholic country, and still has a state-church, that i dont have a problem with, since the church has lots most of its power over the government anyway, i.e. divorce and all that jazz,

    it isnt the worst religion or church to set ur moral views by, its been teaching our young people to respect eachother and try and live good life, not a bad message, and as long as we stick to that, why seperate,

    but i would seperate church and state, to make others feel welcome in ireland, but i would seperate faith and state, id still support catholic views on things like abortion!

  • State schools (as distinct from community schools inherited from religious orders) would be fine, but they would need an equally heavy clout of “ethos”/ideology.

    Erm, why?

  • Oiliféar

    Erm, for the reasons I outline above?

  • I think your reasoning is circular, Oiliféar. Ethos is good because it is. I’m not even sure exactly what you’re defining as ethos, if it’s not religious. Unless you’re talking about some sort of civic pride, and I certainly don’t think that’s beyond the capability of a secular state system.

  • Oiliféar

    Ethos is good, yes. Civic pride – yeah, that’s the same kind of thing. What I mean are the kind of “life principles” that come not as part of the formal education of a school, but as part of a school’s culture. Religious groups have these built-in from the start, but they do not have a monopoly on them. Many civic and charatable groups are driven by “priciples” of this kind and in the past many of these founded schools, and those schools carry with them those same principles right down to this very day. This “ethos” (or whatever you would like to call it) is a good thing for kids and a good quality for any school to possess.

    What I wrote about “ethos” was that, “That is a very difficult thing to start up from scratch – not impossible, but very difficult.”

    For such an ethos to be built in state schools, one that, like the ethos in relgious schools, can transcend generations of pricipals and not be the willy-nilly whim of transitory staff, I wrote: “I don’t doubt that it would be impossible possible, but it would require a great deal of work to nurture, and maybe now’s the time to start planning it.” (Sorry, typo first time around.)

    What kind of “ethos” (appologies for the word) would you propose that state schools have. How can it be nurtured? Should it be uniform or are there way to encourage various types of state schools with differeing ethoses? Or, do you think that it’s necessary, or even desirable. Or would you be happy to leave it to each principals to sort out on their own?

    (I have, by the way, made a difference between state schools and community schools. Maybe you don’t, I can see why, but from the point of view of “ethos” my experience is that community schools inherit the ethos of the ‘previous tenant’.)

  • This “ethos” (or whatever you would like to call it) is a good thing for kids and a good quality for any school to possess.

    You keep saying this, but you still haven’t explained why you think it’s such a good thing for kids and for the school (other than because it is. Apparently. For reasons still unclear to me.)

    For the sake of argument, though, and since you accept that a sort of civic pride would suffice, then I suppose the state could set up a commission of various pillars of civic society to come up with a proposal. I’m not going to draw this idea out any further though as I remain unconvinced of its necessity.

  • confused

    Ireland is not the only Republic in the world although reading some of he posts some think it is.
    Can we not learn from the experiences of others particularly France and USA where this debate of Church and State has been settled and does not give rise to such high emotions when we are only starting the debate.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Garibaldy: “Nobody’s bashing religion. Nor am I bashing Catholic education. I’m saying that the state should be the exclusive provider of education, and that education should be secular. As in fact should be the entire edifice of the state. As in fact should be the entire edifice of the state.”

    Of course… then, while we’re at it, we can have a state-sponsored Youth movement, along with some spiffy uniforms!

    There are dangers in a solely state-centric education, shorn of any ideals…

    Gram: “Can Sikh’s become firemen? Would the wearing of a turban prohibit them from entering burning buildings, rescuing cats etc? ”

    Arguably, yes, for safety reasons — the beard and long hair can prevent obtaining a good seal between the breathing apparatus and the face.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Leaving the specific matter of the Catholic Church out of this, the idea that religious groupings should be entitled to funding from the state is one which is frought with problems. Arguing for mainstream religions is one thing, but access to religious funding means that other religions such as crackpot fundies, Jehovah “Blood Transfusions are Evil” Witnesses, LDS “Jesus was from outer space” types, Satanists and Scientologists are all entitled to funding as well, on an equal basis. This is why the state should have nothing to do with religion in any way other than to ensure that people’s rights of worship are upheld.

    Regarding the specific matter of the Catholic Church, the idea that an unelected group of people with a long history of physical abuse, and indeed child abuse, together with a history of trying to cover up said abuse, should be responsible for the education of children doesn’t seem right.

  • Cuchulainn

    Comrade stalin,

    would u be more cofortable letting ur chuldren be taught by other non-relioius teachers, who have a long history of child abuse, and covering it up through fear,

    are yyou confortable going to hospitals that have a long history of stealing dead peoples organs and storing them without informing the family?

    are you comfortable being protected by police with a long history of murder and abuse?

    would you rather support Sinn Fein, with a past of murder on this new government past, rather than the SDLP who have been the only party to preach the path for 30+ years (this one may not apply to u)

    everyone has dark pasts, dont group all people together because of uniform or title!

  • George

    If the parents decide they don’t want to educate their children in religious schools then there won’t be any.

    But the situation we have is that parents do want to send their children to religious schools.

    Some Protestant schools are overrun by Catholics and some Catholic schools are overrun by non-Catholics.

    Lutherans, aethiests, Orthodox Christians etc. are attending Catholic schools in ever-growing numbers.

    The situation is very fluid at the moment.

    We also have an added problem regarding liability and who will pay for any legal claims etc.

    We have a problem with the school boards being mono-religious but to solve this we first need to ensure that school boards don’t see themselves facing huge legal bills.

    What we don’t have a problem with is the desire of many parents to be involved in the education of their children and all the talk of state-run education here is simply wishful thinking on the part of a very small minority.

    Why hasn’t a single party in the Republic suggested the idea? Because it’s a non-runner.

    Don’t know what the feeling is up north.

  • Harry Flashman

    **I’m saying that the state should be the exclusive provider of education**

    You don’t really mean that do you Garibaldy?

    I follow your point about the state providing a solely secular education but are you seriously suggesting that the state and only the state should provide education and anyone who wished to provide an alternative to the state monopoly should be banned? That’s a bit North Korean don’t you think?

    **Can we not learn from the experiences of others particularly France and USA where this debate of Church and State has been settled and does not give rise to such high emotions when we are only starting the debate.**

    You clearly have not followed political debate in either France or the US in recent years if you think the issue of church and state seperation has been calmly resolved. It is a huge political hot potato in both societies and indeed is perhaps one of the key issues that predominates in political debates.

  • Northsider

    In answer to the question posed in the header to this piece, I would say the Republic is a post-religious state. However, the huge hole left in society (and people’s lives) by the demise of the Catholic Church is now being filled by a dutiful observance of Green rituals and peities which is on the rise in the Republic.

    Indeed, the good showing of the Green Cult party in the last elections, and their admission into government shows that state and this new church are as inextricably linked as the old Catholic Church/Free State model under Eamon De Valera.

  • Oiliféar

    “Indeed, the good showing of the Green Cult party in the last elections, and their admission into government shows that state and this new church are as inextricably linked as the old Catholic Church/Free State model under Eamon De Valera.”

    Interesting thesis, but how does it show that it is “inextricably linked”? Did Germany worship at this Church under Schröder?

  • 90% of primary schools are catholic owned and run, that unconstitutional because it leaves parents with no choice,people keep saying they choose to do so they don’t, there is no choice, the state are to this day actively hampering attempts to set up secular schools. its a disgrace that its being ignored by successive governments, its disappointing nobodies taken a case to court against the government.

    I believe all the schools should be taken of the church and put in multi-rep trusts in lieu of the payment due on child abuse.

    btw is NI run by a priest?

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    Religious interest has plummeted in the RoI, compared to years ago when it was all we had. People have realized that they can live on mammon alone without god. Anyway those that do attend mass and label themselves Roman Catholic would morelikely be the liberal sort, the ‘a la carte’ catholic who picks whatever appeals to them that suits their style of living. Such people could be described as Protestants in a way. The present popes dogma harking back to the middle ages is not everyones cup of tea in the RoI today, and infact Roman Catholic canon law (ie transubstantiation etc…) was never really fully understood by the Irish populace.