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Separate but equal?

Separate but equal? Schools and the politics of religion and diversity in the Republic of Ireland focuses on the historical and current place of religion in the Irish education system from the perspective of children’s rights and citizenship. It offers a critical analysis of the political, cultural and social forces that have perpetuated the patronage system, looks at the ways in which the denominational model has been adapted to increased religious and cultural diversity in Irish society and shows that recent changes have failed to address persistent discrimination and the absence of respect for freedom of conscience. It relates current debates on the denominational system and the role of the State in education to Irish political thought and conceptions of national identity in Ireland, showing the ways in which such debates reflect a tension between nationalist-communitarian and republican political outlooks. There have been efforts towards accommodation and against instances of discrimination within the system, but Irish educational structures still privilege communal and private interests and hierarchies over equal rights, either in the name of a de facto ‘majority’ right to religious domination or by virtue of a deeply flawed and limited view of ‘parental choice’.

Leeds Jewish tailors and Leeds Jewish tailoring trade unions, 1876–1915

dwindled to zero. There had been no victors among the men, only among the masters. Attempts were made by Jewish socialist tailors to reconstitute a Jewish tailors’ union which was open to all tailoring workers in the manner of ‘new unionism’ which was emerging in London. 38 Though the new union was open to all workers, the machiners, considering themselves of a higher level skill, retained their independence. It was not only the skill divide which separated the Jewish workforce, there was also a dichotomy between religiosity and new political

in Leeds and its Jewish Community
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equal citizenship that Irish political leaders claim as their own in the name of their republican ideals. Beyond the issue of the overall place of cultural and religious Catholicism, the current denominational structure of the Irish education system, with the legal imposition of particular religious orientations in schools, runs contrary to the new educational methods founded on intercultural and child-centred principles that have made some headway in Irish schools. The most telling illustration is probably the fact that religion classes and religious rituals in 208

in Schools and the politics of religion and diversity in the Republic of Ireland
The place of religion

32 2 Social upheavals and discourses on Irish identity: the place of religion To understand the contemporary relationship between school and religion in the Republic of Ireland, and the policies and debates that affect it, one must take into account the wider changes at work in Irish society over the past forty years. The aim in this chapter is to offer an overview of these changes, of the place of religion in them and of the fluctuations in the dominant discourse on Irish identity, within the political sphere in particular. Many articles and books published

in Schools and the politics of religion and diversity in the Republic of Ireland
Still denominational and private

country trying to address this problem. But, sooner or later, we as a society have 114 114 S chools and the politics of religion and diversity to face this, that we cannot seriously go forward with a primary system unique in the developed world in which 99% of primary schools are privately owned religious institutions who, by law, must uphold one particular religious ethos.2 Three UN reports, published in 2005 by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in 2006 by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (in charge of controlling the progressive

in Schools and the politics of religion and diversity in the Republic of Ireland

identity and citizenship in the 1999 primary-school curriculum, all school subjects may be studied for such a purpose, but some of them have a closer or more explicit link to issues of identity and citizenship.1 We will look more specifically at the way religion is handled within the context of these issues. In the Irish State, such links may be found more particularly in school history, Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) in primary schools, Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) in secondary schools, as well as RE or ‘Religion’, as it is often called in

in Schools and the politics of religion and diversity in the Republic of Ireland
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1 Introduction Religion, identity and citizenship in schools: the Irish case The aim of this book is to examine a striking characteristic of the Irish State: the control of its education system by religious and private bodies, which entails an analysis of the place of religion in schools and its contemporary social, political and ideological implications in the Republic of Ireland. The chosen perspective is essentially political and ideological, with a study of education policies as they reflect government choices and of the standpoints and views of those

in Schools and the politics of religion and diversity in the Republic of Ireland

cultural and political homogeneity that prevailed during 12 12 S chools and the politics of religion and diversity the first decades after Independence, despite the fact that Ireland has never been homogeneous, culturally or politically.2 This fabricated homogeneity, an integral part of the new state’s project of cultural and political cohesion, was thus cultivated through education to the point that it acquired the status of something indisputable, with any assertion of existing differences henceforth taking on a subversive character. These differences, whether

in Schools and the politics of religion and diversity in the Republic of Ireland
What role for schools?

Catholic vision of education, Denis O’Sullivan remarks that most studies on the evolution of the school system implicitly rely on the theoretical model of ‘modernisation’, most authors analysing changes from that perspective.2 According to him, this approach was adopted all the more easily in Ireland as it fitted neatly with an absence of debate on educational principles, itself encouraged by the ‘anti-ideology’ orientation of Irish political culture. He notes that it was also in keeping with the main orientations of the European Commission, which boldly proclaimed ‘the

in Schools and the politics of religion and diversity in the Republic of Ireland

the 1998 Education Act and as a result of exemptions to the principles of equality and non-discrimination 148 148 S chools and the politics of religion and diversity in equality legislation as we will see. The School Admissions Bill introduced in April 2015, whose stated aim is to reduce schools’ ability to discriminate in their admissions policy, has not put this into question.1 The second issue behind this discourse is that of the actual level of inclusiveness (to be understood as absence of discrimination) and respect for children’s rights within the schools

in Schools and the politics of religion and diversity in the Republic of Ireland