Faith schools face fresh ‘attack’

Equality Authority accused of rushing employment amendment process

The Equality Authority has been accused of rushing a consultation process that could see Catholic and other faith-based schools stripped of the right to defend their religious ethos.

The move has been criticised as “an attack on denominational schools”.

The authority issued an invitation online for submissions on Section 37 on October 15, but gave November 1 as the deadline for these, offering little over two weeks for interested parties to become part of the consultation. Section 37 is the part of the law which permits faith-based organisations to employ only those who will uphold the religious ethos.

Dr John Murray of Dublin’s Mater Dei Institute insisted that the narrow timeframe is “tight and unacceptable” and warned that the consultation showed that “denominational schools are under attack”.

Sense of rush

“Consultation has to be done in a way that is consultative,” Dr Murray stressed, adding that the process “has a sense of rush about it [with] all the hallmarks of being rushed to a certain result”.

He said that a desire for some limited change “is there, and should be respected and responded to”.

However, he said that “the demand for change is very, very small, and certainly less than is currently being portrayed”.

He insisted that the current consultation “is not a genuine case of protecting equality, but is discrimination against many parents and their children”.

“Denominational schools have a right to exist and to be funded in Ireland,” he said. “Society should fund schools allowing parents to educate their children according to their world view.”


Dr Murray’s concerns on the consultation’s timeframe was shared by Fr Michael Drumm, chair of the Catholic Schools Partnership (CSP), who told The Irish Catholic it “is completely unreasonable and raises questions about both methodology and quality of the process”.

Fr Drumm said he had never before heard of a process taking just two weeks. “Such processes routinely take two to three months,” he explained.

He pointed out that the section “is a balancing of rights, and when it was drawn up, very careful consideration was given to this balancing”.

Wait and see

“We’ll have to wait and see what proposals emerge from the process, and we would participate, but a two-week process is totally inadequate,” he said.

Section 37 of the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011 relates to religious schools and institutions, offering them the right to refuse employment to an applicant on religious grounds to protect the institution’s ethos.