In the past twelve years, the Catholic Church, through its bishops, has introduced “Catholics First” admissions policies into National Schools under its patronage. This has removed a right of entry to local National Schools from a significant proportion of children in Ireland. This is both unconstitutional and illegal. This report looks at this issue, and how it might be tackled.
The National School system is a State system of free primary education. The central pillar of the National School system is a legal right for “children of all religions to be taught together in the same school”. A National School is a school that has subjected itself to the “Rules for National Schools”, and thereby receives State funding. There are other primary schools which receive no state funding. The State is not allowed, by the Constitution and ordinary legislation, to provide funding for schools which discriminate on religious grounds.
This report details the various constitutional and legislative measures that relate to National Schools, and shows that a “Catholics First” admissions policy in any National School is illegal.
This Report was written by John Suttle B.E. Mr. Suttle was a member of two Boards of Management of two National Schools over a period of four years. He was a member of the Parents Association Committees of five schools over a period of twelve years. He has been involved in a number of other school parent committees dealing with co-education and with the sale of school property. His primary occupation is as a landscape contractor for the past thirty years – the company in which he is involved being designated the Best Landscape Contractor in Ireland in 2001. He has been involved in commercial investment property for the past twenty years, and has dealt with the legal issues related to these. Others who have helped with the Report include friends and colleagues who have some expertise in law, in European and international affairs, and in public administration.
The author would like to acknowledge the help of the following in preparing this report.
E. McKay, J. Horgan-Jones, J. Slattery, E. Maguire, S. Gibbons, D. Robinson.
All items in italics are original extracts from elsewhere (see references in Section 9).