The Equality Authority is tasked as the regulatory authority for the Equal Status Act 2000. As outlined earlier this Act prohibits religious discrimination in admissions to a school. From the Equality Authority booklet on the issue, the Authority says the following:
The Acts allow primary and post-primary schools which have the objective of providing education in an environment which promotes certain religious values to admit persons of a particular religious denomination in preference to others. Primary and post-primary schools may refuse to admit a student who is not of that denomination if it is proved that the refusal is essential to maintain the ethos of the school.
Further extract from the Equal Status Act 2000
23.—(1) Where it appears to the Authority that—
(a) prohibited conduct—
(i) is being generally directed against persons, or
(ii) has been directed against a person who has not made a claim under section 21 (1) in respect of the prohibited conduct and it is not reasonable to expect that the person will do so
the matter may be referred by the Authority to the Director.
(2) Where a matter is referred to the Director under subsection (1) it shall be dealt with in the same manner and to the same extent as if—
(a) it were a claim referred to the Director under section 21 (1),
(b) the Authority were the complainant and the person alleged to have engaged in the prohibited conduct or to have committed the contravention referred to in subsection (1)(b), as the case may be, were the respondent, and
(c) where the matter involved a contravention referred to in subsection (1)(b), the contravention were prohibited conduct.
- To the knowledge of the author, the Equality authority has never sought, nor received, evidence relating to the proofs required by discriminating schools, i.e. (i) evidence that a case has been proven by the discriminating school, (ii) evidence as regards ethos of a school, (iii) evidence as to how the entry of a child effects the ethos of the school and (iv) the “essential” nature of such a refusal of entry to a school.
- The Equality Authority has the power, under section 23 of the Equal Status Act 2000, to investigate the “Catholics First” admissions policy in a National School, which, prima facie, is illegal, without receiving a formal complaint. To the author’s knowledge, it has never done so.
- Ireland is known worldwide for only one type of discrimination – religious discrimination. The Equality Authority in Ireland should be a world leader in combatting this particular type of discrimination.
- The Equality Authority’s activism in other areas, such as race, ethnic background, gender etc. contrasts greatly with its inactivity in the dominant inequality in Ireland – religion.
- The education system, by its division on religious lines, undoubtedly contributes to the religious divide in Irish society. The Equality Authority does not seem to promote religious equality on admissions to National Schools, the bedrock of the Irish education system.
- The Equality Authority appears to promote the exception rather than the general rule in explaining the Equal Status Act which outlaws religious discrimination on admission to National Schools.