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Monday 18 December 2017

'Baptism barrier' to end as Bruton plans to stop Catholic schools admitting on basis of religion

However, minority schools will still be able to refuse pupils on grounds of religion

(Stock image)
(Stock image)
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Schools run by minority religions will be allowed to refuse pupils from other denominations under plans to finally end the so-called ‘baptism barrier’.

Education Minister Richard Bruton has brought forward a proposal that will stop the country’s 2,800 Catholic schools from discriminating on the grounds of religion.

However, he will allow education facilities under the patronage of the Church of Ireland and other religions to factor ethos into their admission policies.

The controversial move comes after intense lobbying from Fine Gael ministers and backbenchers who warned the minister an outright ban on the baptism barrier could have unintended consequence for Protestant schools.

Nine of 10 schools are currently under the ethos of the Catholic Church, whereas just 191 (6pc) are run by other religious organisations.

The proposals announced by Mr Bruton last night raises complex legal and constitutional issues which his officials have not yet worked out.

#HaveYourSay: Do you agree minority religion schools should be allowed to refuse pupils from other denominations?

However, the minister indicated government policy will now move towards a ‘carve-outs’ situation aimed specifically at protecting the position of families of minority religions.

"I believe it is unfair that preference can be given by publicly-funded denominational schools to children of their own religion who might live some distance away, ahead of children of a different religion or of no religion who live close to the school," Mr Bruton said.

"I also believe that it is unfair that some parents, who might otherwise not do so, feel pressure to baptise their children in order to gain admission to their local school."

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