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2019

May 2019: Irish electorate votes in favour of changes to constitution with regard to divorce
In a referendum held on Friday, 24th May, the Irish electorate voted to remove the 4-year period of (...)

  • May 2019: Irish electorate votes in favour of changes to constitution with regard to divorce

In a referendum held on Friday, 24th May, the Irish electorate voted to remove the 4-year period of separation between couples in order to seek a divorce as well as to give recognition in Ireland to divorces obtained outside Ireland.
Religious groups such as the Catholic Church urged that state efforts would be best invested in supporting marriage rather than seeking constitutional changes to divorce. Individual bishops such as Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin argued that voting for the proposed constitutional changes was at odds with Catholic norms and values. 81.2 per cent of the electorate voted in favour of the referendum (turnout about 50 per cent).

For more detail, see Referendum Commission, Statement by Bishop Denis Nulty and Pastoral message of bishop Kevin Doran.

D 27 May 2019    ABrian Conway

2018

October 2018: Referendum to change Irish constitution with regard to blasphemy
On 26th October 2018, a referendum will take place with regard to blasphemy. The amendment being put before the (...)

  • October 2018: Referendum to change Irish constitution with regard to blasphemy

On 26th October 2018, a referendum will take place with regard to blasphemy. The amendment being put before the people involves removing the single reference to blasphemy in Article 40.6.1 of the constitution. To date, this referendum has motivated relatively little public debate. The referendum vote will coincide with the presidential election vote.

Recently, the Irish Catholic bishops addressed this issue in their autumn general meeting, where they noted that the constitutional reference to blasphemy was “largely obsolete” while also urging respect for freedom of religious expression. In addition, the issue was the subject of deliberation by the Irish Council of Churches/Irish Inter-Church Meeting.

For more detail, see Irish Catholic Bishop’s Conference, Irish Churches, Referendum Commission.

  • Mai 2018: Irish abortion vote

On Friday, May 25th 2018 the Irish electorate voted to repeal the Eight Amendment of the constitution, which gave equal constitutional protection to the right to life of the mother and the unborn child. The overall result was 66.4% in favour of repeal (“Yes” vote) and 33.6% against (“No” vote). A notable feature of the result (based on exit poll data) was the majority repeal vote across different social categories, such as age, gender and location. In only one county (of 32) – Donegal, in the north-west of the country – was there a majority No vote. Interestingly, the 2018 referendum vote pattern was the 1983 referendum (which put the amendment in the constitution in the first place) result flipped over.

This vote paves the way for the legislature to bring forward law providing abortion services in Ireland. While the timeframe and exact form this law will take is not yet clear, it will allow abortion on demand up to 12 weeks and abortion after 12 weeks on some other grounds, such as a threat to the life of the mother.

Religious groups such as the Catholic Church did not welcome the outcome of the referendum. While respecting the democratic process, the Catholic primate Archbishop Eamon Martin pointed out that the referendum result will take away legal protection for the right to life of unborn children, a key tenet of Catholic teaching. Also, the Primate noted that the outcome meant that the pro-life movement would have to continue its efforts to protect unborn life from intentional destruction and to support women facing crisis pregnancies.

For more detail, see:
The Citizen’s Assembly, Thirty-sixth Amendment to the Constitution Exit Poll, Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

  • April 2018: Irish abortion debate

A referendum on the repeal of the Eight Amendment (dating to a referendum in 1983) of the constitution – recognising the equal right to life of the mother and unborn baby and upholding these rights in law – will take place on 25 May, 2018. In the event of the referendum passing, the government will legislate for the circumstances (set forth in the Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018) – e.g. access to abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and provision for conscientious objection by medical professionals – under which abortion will be legal.

In the run up to the referendum vote, advocacy groups on both sides of the debate have been putting forward their respective positions. As in previous abortion debates, “pro-choice” and “pro-life” (also referred to as “anti-abortion”) groups have publicly mobilised.

The Catholic hierarchy has urged a No vote, by appealing to the Catholic prohibition against the intentional taking of human life. This position is supported by groups such as the Pro Life Campaign and Love Both. At the same time, other religious actors – including the Church of Ireland bishop of Limerick – have urged a Yes vote. Still other Church of Ireland bishops – including the archbishops of Armagh and Dublin – have rejected proposals to make abortion available on demand up to 12 weeks.

On the pro-repeal side, groups such as Abortion Rights Campaign and Together for Yes are also publicly campaigning and appealing to the human right of women to make their own reproductive choices, including access to abortion. Pro-repeal groups point out that Irish women already access abortion services in the UK, a service not currently available in Ireland. Also, pro-repeal groups argue that repeal would help protect the health of Irish women by reducing the likelihood of recourse to other interventions (e.g. abortion pills).

For more detail, see:
- Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018
- Message of the Irish Catholic Bishops, Two lives one love
- Statement of the Archbishop of Armagh and the Archbishop of Dublin

D 19 October 2018    ABrian Conway

2017

May 2017: Historic role of Catholic influence in social service provision under spotlight
In recent months, the topic of the historic role of Catholic personnel in the Irish welfare system has (...)

  • May 2017: Historic role of Catholic influence in social service provision under spotlight

In recent months, the topic of the historic role of Catholic personnel in the Irish welfare system has become increasingly discussed. This is reflected in the public debate in the last few months concerning the involvement of the Sisters of Charity in the ownership of a planned new (and relocated) national maternity hospital in Dublin. This gave rise to concerns that a religious influence would be retained in the day-to-day running of the hospital and the interpretation of ethical practices in the delivery of health services. Following public opposition, the Sisters of Charity order released a statement in May 2017 indicating their intention to withdraw completely from the project, divesting the new hospital of religious involvement. Church elites emphasized that the public debate risked overlooking the church’s important work in meeting the social service needs of the general population.

For more detail, see TheJournal.ie, The Irish Times, The Irish Times.

D 9 June 2017    ABrian Conway

2016

July 2016: Advocacy group calls for end to alleged religion-based discrimination in Irish school system
In July 2016, advocacy group Education Equality called for an end to alleged (...)

  • July 2016: Advocacy group calls for end to alleged religion-based discrimination in Irish school system

In July 2016, advocacy group Education Equality called for an end to alleged religion-based discrimination in the Irish school system, a call made as part of a protest organised by the group in Dublin. This issue brings to the fore two competing values – protecting the religious freedom of certain religious groups on the one hand, and ensuring equal treatment of religious and non-religious individuals and groups on the other.

This call takes place against the backdrop of growing religious diversity and increasing numbers of people who self-identify as non-religious/secular.

For more detail, see Raidió Teilifís Éireann.

  • 7 April 2016: Religious and secular groups weigh into debate about place of religion in the school curriculum

In recent times, increasing debate has taken place in Irish society concerning the place of religion in the school curriculum. This debate has arisen mainly due to more religious diversity than before in the majority Catholic society, in terms of the emergence and growth of new minority religious traditions but also increasing numbers of people who self-identify as atheist/secular/non-religious as well as people who self-identify as Catholic but have low levels of commitment to the Catholic faith.

In light of this, religious and secular groups have recently participated in a consultation process about the teaching of religion initiated by the NCCA (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment), putting forth their views on the proper place of religion in the school system.

For more detail, see Irish Times.

  • January 2016: Muslim group calls for changes in school admission policies

In recent times, increasing debate has taken place in Irish society concerning how the state – and religious institutions – should respond to growing religious diversity. This debate has played out especially in relation to the education system.

For example, in January 2016 a group representing Muslims in Dublin called for changes in school admission policies that allow Catholic schools, which are funded by the state, to give preference in admissions to baptised Catholic children.

This practice may be the subject of legislation in the national parliament in the near future (for more detail, see RTÉ).

At the same time, the Catholic leadership has challenged claims that Catholic schools operate in an exclusionary way. The Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, for example, stated that the baptismal requirement was rarely, if ever, applied in Catholic schools (for more detail, see RTÉ).

D 1 September 2016    ABrian Conway

2015

May 2015
In the 1970s, the dominant religious institution in Irish society, the Catholic Church, began to collect survey-based data about trends in weekly church attendance. This provided an (...)

  • May 2015

In the 1970s, the dominant religious institution in Irish society, the Catholic Church, began to collect survey-based data about trends in weekly church attendance. This provided an empirical basis for pastoral planning in the church. However, other faith traditions in Ireland have only very recently carried out institutional religious research about church attendance. A good example of this is the recent census carried out by the Church of Ireland. Notably, this reported a 15 per cent average Sunday church attendance rate among Church of Ireland adherents, based on systematic head-counts of devotees attending Sunday services over a 3-week period.

For more detail, see Church of Ireland, Census 2013.

  • April 2015: Divisions and overlaps between religious and secular groups evident in same-sex marriage referendum debate

A referendum will take place in Ireland on 22 May 2015 concerning the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Unsurprisingly, religious and secular groups have both advanced positions in relation to this contested issue. For the most part, opponents of the referendum belong to religious groups while supporters fall into the secular category. At the same time, there is also some evidence of organised religious groups supporting the referendum. A good example of this is the Faith in Marriage Equality (FIME) group, which brings together different faith traditions in advocating, based on religious sources of legitimation, for marriage for same-sex couples.

  • March 2015: Religious and secular groups weigh into same-sex marriage referendum debate

On the 22 May 2015 a referendum will be held in Ireland concerning the legalisation of same-sex marriage. In the run up to this referendum, religious and secular groups have put forward opposing stances. The Catholic bishops have set out their position calling for rejection of the proposed constitutional change, a stance which chimes with the position of other religiously-inspired entities such as the Iona Institute (Dublin-based Catholic think-tank which promotes traditional church teaching, especially in the area of marriage and family). On the secular side, groups such as the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) are calling for the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

For more detail, see the Irish Catholic Bishop’s Conference website, Iona Institute, and GLEN.

  • January 2015: Primate calls for discontinuation of academic selection in Catholic school system

The majority of primary and secondary schools in Irish society are state funded but are run by religious groups, mostly Catholic. Historically, these schools have administered entrance tests to select their student intake based on academic ability. One of the consequences of this has been the marginalisation of weaker, less academically oriented students, especially students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This can have quite significant impacts in relation to future transitions to further education and employment. In light of this, the Catholic archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, called for the discontinuation of academic selection in the Catholic school system. He cited the importance of inclusivity as a principle motivating this stance.

For more detail, see The Irish Times.

D 3 September 2015    ABrian Conway

2014

Catholic bishop defends church teaching on same-sex marriage
In 2015 a referendum will take place in Ireland concerning the extension of the right to marry to same-sex couples. Opinion poll data (...)

  • Catholic bishop defends church teaching on same-sex marriage

In 2015 a referendum will take place in Ireland concerning the extension of the right to marry to same-sex couples. Opinion poll data suggest strong public support for this proposal.

Against this background, the Catholic bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran, has defended the church’s teaching on marriage as the key human institution for the bearing and raising of children. He said the introduction of same-sex marriage would sunder this relationship between marriage and reproduction.

For more detail, see the Irish Times.

  • 6 June 2014: Tuam mother-and-baby home controversy highlights past church-state interactions

Following the establishment of the Irish state in 1921, the running of much of the country’s social service infrastructure was handed over to religious institutions. Industrial schools, Magdalen laundries, and mother-and-baby homes were all part of this infrastructure and catered to particular stigmatised individuals in the society including young offenders, children born outside marriage, and single mothers. The latter were termed “fallen women” because they were perceived to have violated the society’s sexual code.

Women who had children outside marriage were frequently sent to mother-and-baby homes run by Catholic female religious and authorised by the state. In early June 2014 a story about the graves associated with one of these homes located in the west of Ireland town of Tuam, Co. Galway, came into the public domain as a result of the efforts of some local people to determine the history associated with the home in their locality. This gave rise to a public controversy about what happened to the children and mothers concerned and the burden of responsibility for their experiences.

For more detail, see Raidió Teilifís Éireann and the Irish Times.

  • 3 June 2014: Catholic archbishop sees church workforce shortages as spur to lay activism

Since Vatican II, the Catholic Church in Ireland has experienced a quite dramatic decline in Catholic vocations. In 1970 there were 8 seminaries for the training of priests, compared to just one – St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth – today. Ordinations have also dropped quite drastically, such that the ordination of a single priest is newsworthy not just in Catholic media but in the secular press as well.

Against this background, the Catholic archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has stated that the shortage of new callings in the church compared to earlier times may spur greater lay activism. He was speaking at an ordination ceremony for newly ordained priest, Fr. Séamus McEntee.

For more detail, see the Irish Times.

  • 15 january 2014: Historical Abuse Inquiry begins public hearings

The Historical Abuse Inquiry, set up by the Northern Ireland Assembly to inquire into abuse of children in state and church institutions in Northern Ireland in the 1922-1995 time period, began its first public hearings on the 12 January 2014 in the courthouse in Banbridge, Co. Down.

For more detail, read more at the BBC here and here.

The role of institutions of the Catholic Church, which has an all-island jurisdiction, will be a significant focus of the inquiry, following recent similar inquiries relating to institutional abuse in church-run institutions in southern Irish society.

D 26 September 2014    ABrian Conway

2013

18 November 2013: Catholic bishop expresses church opposition to government proposal to hold referendum on same-sex marriage
Various legal rights pertaining to same-sex couples – such as the (...)

  • 18 November 2013: Catholic bishop expresses church opposition to government proposal to hold referendum on same-sex marriage

Various legal rights pertaining to same-sex couples – such as the right to adopt children and the right to marry – have become subject to state action in recent months in Ireland. Following the government’s proposal to hold a referendum on same-sex marriage in 2015, Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin has defended the Catholic Church’s stance on marriage as the crucible for the expression of life-long love between a man and a woman and for the socialisation of the next generation.

For more detail, see on Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

  • 26 October 2013: Church of Ireland organisation calls for legal clarity regarding position of children in same-sex relationships

In recent times, increasing public debate has taken place in Ireland concerning the extension of the right to marry to same-sex couples. A referendum on the issue will likely take place in 2015. Other legal issues relating to same-sex couples have also recently come into the public domain. On 26 October, 2013, a Church of Ireland LGBT advocacy organisation, Changing Attitude Ireland (CAI), called for legal clarity with respect to the children of same-sex couples. This call was made by Judge Catherine McGuinness, patron of CAI, at a Changing Attitude Ireland lecture to mark 20 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in southern Irish society.

  • 23 October 2013: Debate rages about state involvement in denominational education system

The Irish educational system is characterized by a diversity of providers but is dominated by religious institutions. Back in 1967, the state introduced free secondary education but also retained an arrangement allowing for the provision of private, fee-paying schools associated with particular religious groups. One of these groups, the Protestant Church of Ireland, operates a number of such schools, which avail of special state grants. These schools face the criticism of social elitism and are coming under increasing pressure to opt-in to the state’s free school scheme, thereby foregoing the long-established state “block grant” to support the education of children from a mainly Protestant background.

  • 24 August 2013: Religious groups may face local political opposition

Newly emerging religious groups in Ireland – such as Muslims, Pentecostals, and Orthodox Christians – increasingly use industrial warehouses in Dublin as worship spaces. However, one Dublin county council is considering issuing warning notices to religious groups who celebrate their services in industrial estates zoned for other uses under planning regulations.

  • 10 July 2013: National parliament vote on abortion legislation

Public representatives will vote today (Wednesday, 10 July) in the national parliament on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill (2013) in the final vote on the bill before becoming law. This bill legalizes the carrying out of abortions in Irish hospitals. The Coadjutor Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Eamon Martin, appealed to legislators to vote against the bill. The Catholic bishops also wrote directly to public representatives urging them not to vote in favor of the bill. Other religious groups have been less vocal in either opposing or supporting the bill.

More detail can be found here: Raidió Teilifís Éireann.

  • May 2013: Abortion Debate

The Irish government published draft legislation to legalise abortion in Ireland, The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013. This proposed legislation gives effect to an Irish Supreme Court ruling in 1992 – in the ‘X’ case – allowing abortion in circumstances involving a threat to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother. In addition, the legislation permits abortion in circumstances in which the mother’s life is at risk as a result of suicidal ideation.

Following the publication of the government’s proposed legislation, the Irish Catholic bishops issued a public statement criticizing the bill, claiming it was “morally unacceptable”.

Other religious groups – such as the Church of Ireland – favor abortion in circumstances in which there is a risk to the life of the mother.

For more detail see Church News Ireland.

  • April 2013: Civil Marriage and Same-Sex Couples

As part of the government’s commitment to constitutional amendment in light of wider social and political change, it established a Constitutional Convention in 2012 to consider and make recommendations in relation to various topics such as same-sex marriage, voting rights, electoral reform, and the role of women in politics (see The Convention on the Constitution)

The membership of the Constitutional Convention is made up of 100 people reflecting different sectors of Irish society. It’s purpose to make recommendations to government regarding changes in the constitution. It operates by inviting oral and written submissions from individuals and groups in relation to the various issues addressed in its work.

One of these topics relates to the contentious issue of same-sex marriage. The Constitutional Convention received a number of submissions from various individual citizens, religious groups, and non-religious organisations in relation to this issue. Two submissions reflecting opposing positions on extending the right to marriage to same-sex couples are those of the Church of Ireland organisation Changing Attitude Ireland (see The Convention on the Constitution) and the Council for Marriage and the Family of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference (see The Convention on the Constitution).

In April 2013, 79% of members of the Constitutional Convention voted in favour of extending civil marriage to same-sex couples.

  • February 2013

A report into the Irish state’s involvement in the operation of Magdalene laundries was published. Magdalene laundries were large-scale institutions run by Catholic religious orders in which “fallen women” (or women who were viewed as having the potential to “fall”) – women who had children outside marriage or women who were unwanted by their families– engaged in laundry cleaning for long periods of their lives. The major finding of the report was that the state was heavily involved in these institutions, through its inspection system, cleaning contracts, and the pathways by which women entered and left the laundries. In February 2013 the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) offered an official apology to the over 10,000 women who spent part of their lives in the laundries and announced a non-adversarial compensation scheme.

You can read the full text of the report on Department of Justice and Equality.

  • 18 January 2013

A new coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh, Monsignor Eamon Martin, was appointed by the Pope in January 2013 to succeed Cardinal Seán Brady.

For more information see on Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

  • January 2013: Abortion Debate

The “abortion debate” has moved centre stage in the public consciousness in Ireland in recent months. This arose from the tragic death of a pregnant mother Savita Halappanavar arising from her medical treatment in a Galway hospital. Ms. Halappanavar sought the termination of her pregnancy but this was disallowed by her medical doctors. The termination of pregnancy is prohibited under current Irish law.

Following this case, the Irish government announced its intention to legislate for abortion in circumstances involving a threat to the life as the distinct from the health of the mother.

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference urged the government not to introduce abortion legislation and instead advocated for the use of clearer medical guidelines to clarify medical practice in circumstances where the mother’s life is in danger.

As part of the process of legislating for abortion the Oireachtas (parliamentary) Committee on Health and Children held a number of public abortion hearings, some of which were dedicated to various religious groups to make their case in favor or against abortion. Some religious groups – such as the Church of Ireland and secular groups –such as Atheist Ireland – supported the government’s position while others – such as the Catholic Church – strongly opposed it.

For more information see: Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and Michael Nugent’s website.

D 9 December 2013    ABrian Conway

2012

September 2012: Religious lobbying in relation to abortion laws
In September 2012, the Catholic primate, Cardinal Seán Brady, made an intervention in public debate in relation to government plans (...)

  • September 2012: Religious lobbying in relation to abortion laws

In September 2012, the Catholic primate, Cardinal Seán Brady, made an intervention in public debate in relation to government plans to legislate or not in relation to abortion in light of the 2010 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights which found that the state violated the rights of a woman whose life was at risk and who travelled abroad for an abortion. Cardinal Brady stated that the church would campaign against any proposal to introduce abortion and that this campaigning would take the form of media communication, the publication of a pastoral letter, the use of the pulpit to inform devotees, and the lobbying of elected representatives. One government minister, Pat Rabbitte, criticized the Cardinal’s intervention, claiming that the Catholic bishops could no longer “dictate” to politicians. The Catholic think-tank, the Iona Institute, in turn, criticized the Minister for conflating lobbying with dictating and pointed to the well-established practice of religious lobbying in other national contexts.

D 18 September 2012    ABrian Conway

2011

Clergyman’s civil partnership
It was revealed in the Irish media that a serving Church of Ireland (Anglican) clergyman had entered into a same-sex civil partnership. The clergyman, the Reverend (...)

  • Clergyman’s civil partnership

It was revealed in the Irish media that a serving Church of Ireland (Anglican) clergyman had entered into a same-sex civil partnership. The clergyman, the Reverend Tom Gordon, Dean of Leighlin Cathedral was supported by his Bishop but criticised by some conservative evangelicals in the denomination. In response the Church of Ireland, which is the state’s largest Protestant denomination, has announced a special conference for church members to discuss the subject of human sexuality in spring 2012. The Irish government made provision for civil partnerships earlier this year.

  • April 2011: Role of Religious Denominations in School Governance and Religious Education

The future denominational profile of schools and religious education are live public policy issues in Ireland today, particularly in relation to primary schooling. The coming together of a number of factors have contributed to this: increasing religious diversity arising from immigration; the decline of religious personnel as teachers and school principals; dis-identification with Catholic belief and practice among devotees; perceived absence of parental choice concerning the type of school their child can attend.

In April 2011 the Irish government established the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector to consider proposals for dealing with the management and teaching of religion in Irish primary schools against the background of an increasingly pluralistic society. The forum’s report was published in 2012 and recommended a range of measures aimed at balancing the need to preserve the denominational Catholic sector while at the same time meeting the religious education and school governance needs of children and parents who do not belong to a religious denomination or who belong to a minority religious denomination. The report has been generally well received.

D 22 September 2011   

2010

Child abuse in the Irish Catholic church
The Irish Catholic church has been recently the center of public debate: the publication of two reports, the Ryan report and the Murphy report – named (...)

  • Child abuse in the Irish Catholic church

The Irish Catholic church has been recently the center of public debate: the publication of two reports, the Ryan report and the Murphy report – named after the judges who presided over the deliberations of legal inquiries into the running of Catholic institutions called ’industrial schools’ and ’reformatories’ for children, on the onehand, and the Catholic church’s (mis)management of cases of clerical child sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin, on the other, were published in 2009; the information they disclosed concerning violence and abuse against children caused a great shock in public opinion.

A complete article is available concerning this situation: "The Memory and Amnesia of Irish Catholicism", by Brian Conway.

- Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, 2009.
- Commission of Investigation: Report into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, July 2009.

D 30 September 2010    ABrian Conway

2008

Civil Partnership legislation
The Roman Catholic Primate of all-Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady has expressed his concerns about the Irish government’s proposed legislation on Civil Partnership for (...)

  • Civil Partnership legislation

The Roman Catholic Primate of all-Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady has expressed his concerns about the Irish government’s proposed legislation on Civil Partnership for same-sex and cohabiting couples. The Cardinal also warned that the proposed legislation could face a constitutional legal challenge. At present there is no legal recognition of same-sex parnerships in the Republic of Ireland. However, in surveys a majority of the population have indicated that they support such legislation. A new network of liberal Christians in Ireland has been established, called Changing Attitude Ireland, which has called for support for the proposed Civil Partnership legislation.

D 16 December 2008   

2007

September 2007: Increasing use of religious tests for admittance to Irish Schools
The growth in the Irish population has increased the pressure on Irish primary level schools, especially in the (...)

  • September 2007: Increasing use of religious tests for admittance to Irish Schools

The growth in the Irish population has increased the pressure on Irish primary level schools, especially in the Greater Dublin area. The vast majority of primary schools are managed by the Christian Churches, notably the Roman Catholic Church. The schools are permitted by law to positively discriminate in favour of church members. There are increasing reports of schools insisting that parents provide evidence that they are Christian (e.g. a baptismal certificate) to ensure that their child can secure a much sought after place. At the start of the new school year in September 2007 dozens of children in one local suburb failed to find a school place and it was noted that these children were all of either minority or immigrant backgrounds.

  • August 2007: Irish Government faces challenge on religious dress

Ireland has in the past decade experienced unprecedented immigration increasing its religious diversity. In August 2007 a member of the small Sikh community who volunteered to join the Community Garda (volunteer Police force) was dismayed to be informed by the Garda that his traditional head dress, the turban, would not be acceptable. The Garda are insisting that all members wear the standard issue uniform while on duty. The Irish government Minister for Integration, Mr. Conor Lenihan, upheld the Garda ruling. The decision was criticized by the Irish Sikh Council. The incident opened debate in Ireland about the display of religious symbols by public servants.

  • January 2007: Irish Government talks with faith groups

The Irish Government is planning further structured talks with the main faith groups in the country. The purpose of these talks is to discuss areas of common concern. Awareness of the need for dialogue was increased in the context of discussions about a new European constitution and the growing spiritual diversity in the state brought about by religious change and immigration. The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) stated that “in this period of change, that it is timely for all of us to reflect anew on the principles which guide us in our lives and to consider how best they should be reflected in our structures and society”. However, in a statement reported in January 2007 the Government said that there are ‘no plans at the moment’ to include members of the Pagan community in the talks. This stance was criticized by persons of the Pagan faith.

D 7 November 2007   

2006

Largest Catholic teaching order reduces role in education
The Christian Brothers, a Roman Catholic teaching order, have been to the forefront of education in Ireland for two centuries. The (...)

  • Largest Catholic teaching order reduces role in education

The Christian Brothers, a Roman Catholic teaching order, have been to the forefront of education in Ireland for two centuries. The Brothers have announced their withdrawal from direct involvement in over 29 primary and 109 secondary schools which will be transferred to a charity staffed entirely by lay people. The move has been precipitated by declining vocations but it also comes after a difficult decade in which some members of the order have been convicted of sexual abuse in its institutions.

  • Controversy about concelebration of Holy Communion

A concelebration of Holy Communion involving Roman Catholic priests and a Protestant clergyman took place at the Roman Catholic Augustinian priory in Drogheda on April 16th. The occurrence was reported and debated in the Irish media. The main clergy involved were the Roman Catholic priest Fr. Iggy O’Donovan and the local Protestant (Church of Ireland) rector the Revd. Michael Graham. Fr. Iggy is reported as saying in his homily that this celebration of communion was an historic event: the first joint public celebration in Drogheda of the Eucharist by a priest of the Anglican tradition in a catholic church of the Roman tradition since the Reformation. Fr. Iggy has been criticized for his action by some other senior Catholic clergy. The Catholic hierarchy initiated an investigation into the incident. Father O’Donovan later issued an apology and promised to adhere to Church liturgical guidelines in the future. The Protestant (Church of Ireland) Archbishop Robin Eames said he was concerned about the implications for ecumenical relationships and that “Unfortunately, such occasions while well intentioned can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations”. The Revd. Graham in a statement denied his actions were an act of rebellion or deliberate defiance but a reflection of a shared understanding with Fr. Iggy of what the Eucharist meant to them.

D 14 December 2006   

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