Monday 22 October 2018

Comment: It is time to let the people have their say on the Church’s involvement in education

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Michael Barron

On RTÉ’s ‘Morning Ireland’ recently, Minister Regina Doherty indicated there may be another Citizens’ Assembly. We really need one.

Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly mechanism has served us well in recent years – it has fostered respectful discussion on long-standing social issues. These discussions have borne results. The assemblies fulfilled a significant discursive function, giving often polarised positions the chance to be assessed in balanced consideration. Twice in recent years, thanks to this nuanced public discussion, the Citizens’ Assembly has prepared the way for constitutional reform.

In February 2017, equality in education organisation Equate (of which I was director at the time) convened what looked like a preview to a Citizens’ Assembly on education. This conference on religion and education allowed some on differing sides of the argument to be in the same room together for the first time, despite years of debating. It brought together national and international experts, including Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

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