Labour calls for referendum on religious control of schools

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin says separating students based on religion "doesn't make any sense"

Labour calls for referendum on religious control of schools

Senator Aodhan O Riordain. Photo: Sam Boal/

The Labour Party is calling for a referendum on religious control in our schools.

The vast majority of schools in the country are run by religious denominations, with around 90% of primary schools of a Catholic ethos.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin says a Citizens' Assembly should be convened, and suggests it should consider constitutional changes to address religious control of schools.

It would look at the "ownership and control of our education system, and the influence of Articles 42 and 44 of Bunreacht na hÉireann".

Senator Ó Ríordáin says an assembly would allow a "meaningful and considered analysis, discussion and debate" over the issue before any vote, and has launched a petition to garner support for the proposal.

He observed: "We have a disproportionate influence of religious bodies over education in Ireland - it's not reflective of the modern Ireland. The only way we can possibly deal with this, fundamentally, is to have a constitutional referendum to deal with the issue.

"We don't want to be overly adversarial about it... we don't want to play political football with it. We want a Citizens' Assembly to deal with the issue."

He added: "The Labour Party has always believed in the separation of church and state, and we don't believe that children should be separated on the basis of religion in education. It doesn't make any sense, it doesn't stand up to any scrutiny."

The last Citizens' Assembly concluded its work earlier this year, having considered five topics over a year-and-a-half.