Religion loses preferential status in Irish schools as Rule 68 rescinded

Rule 68 has long been considered a major obstacle to enabling Irish primary schools to cater properly for children of all religions and none

Religion loses preferential status in Irish schools as Rule 68 rescinded

File photo of children at school raising their hands to answer a question | Image: Dave Thompson / PA Wire/Press Association Images

The Minister for Education has rescinded the rule which places religion as the most important topic to be covered in Ireland’s primary schools.

Jan O’Sullivan tonight announced she had rescinded Rule 68 of the Rules for Primary Schools.

Rule 68 affirms the primacy of religious education in Ireland’s 3,300 primary schools.

Speaking at the opening of the annual Irish Primary Principals’ Network Conference at Citywest Convention Centre, Dublin, Ms O’Sullivan said the rule was a symbol of Ireland’s past, and one she is glad is gone.

“Rule 68 was a symbol of our past, not our future,” she said.

“The language of the rule was archaic and I am glad it is gone.

With religion currently being granted 30 minutes per day in the primary school curriculum, Ms O’Sullivan questioned if that time could not be better spent on other subjects.

“Currently 30 minutes of each school day is allocated to religion. Is that enough, or is it too much?

“We want children to develop a strong ethical spirit but we also want them to learn many other things. We devote less than half of the time to PE than we do to Religion,” she said.

Religion is described as a "fundamental" aspect of education, in Rule 68. It says "of all the parts of a school curriculum Religious Instruction is by far the most important" and adds that "a religious spirit should inform and vivify the whole work of the school".

The rule has long been considered a major obstacle to enabling Irish primary schools to cater properly for children of all religions and none.

Speaking earlier in the night, IPPN President, Maria Doyle, said over eight out of 10 principals feel religion should be given less time, with the additional time allocated to subjects such as PE, SPHE and the sciences.