Dundalk Institute of Technology has responded to criticism from Atheism Ireland over its paying of €30,000 of State funds to a Catholic priest for the provision of chaplaincy services.
A statement issued last week said: 'DkIT is a secular college and does not promote any one religion or faith while respecting the right of individuals to practice any faith or none. Our student body is very diverse with over 70 different nationalities. In recognition of this diversity we have created a multi-faith prayer room which is heavily used. Pastoral care is provided by non-religious counsellors as well as the chaplaincy service.'
John Hamill of Atheist Ireland has accused the college of breaching Article 44.2.2 of the Irish Constitution which says 'the State guarantees not to endow any religion' thus prohibiting the funding of a specific Church using public money, through the provision of its chaplaincy service.
In a lengthy article on the organisation's website, Hamill outlines how Atheist Ireland submitted a Freedom of Information request to Dundalk Institute of Technology, in order to determine how decisions around the direct funding of Churches from public monies are made.
'We were also interested to understand how State funded chaplaincy services are provided to non-religious students and those of minority religions.'
The report highlighted the annual payment of €30,000 for the chaplaincy services provided by Fr Paddy Rushe as well as an €1,200 per annum to a Presbyterian chaplain, Reverend Stanley Millen, even though he has since retired.
It is claimed no decision was ever recorded by the Executive Board of Dundalk IT to make these €30,000 per annum payments. No tender was issued or other process followed, which may have allowed other religious or secular bodies to offer these pastoral services as the arrangements were put in place following correspondence between DKIT President Denis Cummins and Cardinal Brady.
The report also claims that funding the Roman Catholic Chaplain also breaches of the Dundalk Institute of Technology own employment Equality Policy as no woman can apply for the post.