Recent court ruling welcomed but attacks against RE in North will likely continue

Recent court ruling welcomed but attacks against RE in North will likely continue Aontú candidate Gemma Brolly

Speaking in response to the verdict made by Northern Ireland’s Court of Appeal last week, overruling a previous judgment by the High Court which characterised religious education in the North as not being sufficiently “objective” or “critical”, Aontú Deputy Leader, teacher and advocate for Faith-based education Gemma Brolly said she welcomed the news but there are still battles ahead for Catholic schools.

“It’s very welcome news because we’re living in a society where we’re constantly coming under attack for our Faith,” she said. “You can be whatever you want to be but you cannot have Faith.”

Ms Brolly recalled the rhetoric and caricatures which marked the debates around the Integrated Education Bill that was passed in 2022 – a bill that placed a duty on the Department of Education to prepare, publish and maintain a strategy for the encouragement, facilitation, support for and provision of integrated education – and said that those who wanted their children to attend a Faith-based school were led to believe that religious education was the cause of all of the North’s problems.

“During the Integrated Education Bill debates a few years ago, people were made to believe that by taking Faith out of schools and having integrated education, this would solve all of the problems in the North and that this is where all problems in the North originated almost.

“We have nothing against integrated education but we believe in a pluralist society where if there’s a parent who wishes – and many do in the area I teach in – for their child to be raised with Faith then that is their right.”

Ms Brolly commented on what she believes is an unduly negative perception of Catholic education coming from those who advocate for a more integrated model and the lack of balance in the discourse is leading to the positives going unnoticed.

“What I never hear is how Catholic schools have been welcoming children from all backgrounds for so long”, she said. “We have some of the highest standards pastorally and academically across the world. Yet we constantly hear in the North that it’s almost as if we’re standing children in the corner and driving Faith down their throats and it’s the complete opposite.

“As much as it is very welcome news, unfortunately I don’t think it will end or that it will be the last we’ll experience of discrimination or attacks because of our Faith,” she said.