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Senior civil servants dealing with church 'should be screened'

A PROPOSAL that senior civil servants dealing with the Catholic Church should be "screened" to ensure they do not show "inappropriate deference" to church bosses is to be debated at Labour's national conference.

The proposal is contained in a report focusing on the church's role in national schools across the country, which has been drafted by party activists and adopted by a constituency council in Dublin. The document, which is called 'Illegal Religious Discrimination in National Schools in Ireland' recommends a number of proposals, including that "Catholics first" admission policies be abolished for all schools.

It claims enrolment policies by state-funded Catholic schools which prioritise Catholic children are discriminatory. Report author and party activist John Suttle claims enrolment policies based on religion were never allowed under the law.

He said the presumption they were was allowed develop over the decades. The report claims "inappropriate deference by officials of the State" might explain how this happened.

It then contains the following controversial recommendation: "All senior officials in state bodies which are likely to have to deal with the Catholic Church should be screened to ensure that they will not show inappropriate deference to the Catholic Church. Those who feel they are 'Catholic first and Irish second' should seek promotion in other organs of the State."

The Labour Party conference will take place in NUI Galway in mid-April, and the report, which was adopted last year by the Dublin North-Central constituency council, will be proposed by the Clontarf branch of the party. The proposal would become official party policy if passed, although it would not necessarily become Government policy.

Mr Suttle insisted it would be brought before delegates -- and constituency TD Aodhan O Riordain said he supported it.

Mr O Riordain, who previously called for the abolition of the Dail prayer, said he had a "particular view on the relationship between church and State" -- that "religious ethos has no place in the education sector of a modern republic".

And Mr Suttle added: "When it comes to state-supported schools in the primary sector, religious discrimination on entry is illegal and is not allowed under anything."

A spokesman from the Catholic Communications Office disputed this and said parents should be able to choose to have their children educated in the ethos of a Catholic school -- or schools belonging to other faiths.

Irish Independent