Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

21.49 21 Oct 2020


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It's 'not feasible' to create an 'absolutely' religiously neutral society in Ireland, according to one law expert.

Recent weeks have seen an announcement that more than 200 Irish secondary schools are to phase out Catholic-only symbols and practices.

Schools run by Education and Training Boards are being told to end the likes of mandatory graduation masses and visits from diocesan inspectors.

It comes amid calls for further separation of Church and State from the likes of schools and hospitals.

However, Ronan McCrea - Professor of Constitutional and European Law at University College London - told The Hard Shoulder it's very difficult to separate Ireland completely from its Christian heritage.

Why it's so hard to achieve absolute 'religious neutrality' in Ireland

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He explained: "A purely religiously neutral society anywhere - in absolutely neutral terms - is not feasible.

"What you don't want is the State using state institutions to promote a particular religion... like forcing children to go to mass.

"The reason you can't get to absolute neutrality is that religion and culture are not divided by a very bright line. Because Ireland has centuries and centuries of being overwhelmingly Christian, loads of our cultural symbols - like St Patrick's Day or the shamrock - at least have Christian influence."

Professor McCrea said that it's very hard to avoid some of these Christian-influenced symbols at major festivals and events.

He noted: "You have to have a balance between avoiding the State promoting religion as religion or belief... but also recognising that some of our culture will bear the imprint of our Christian past.

"We can't do anything about the fact that Ireland was historically Catholic and Christian... the important thing is to have both a connection to that past... but also that the next chapters of the story are open to be written by everyone."

You can listen back to the full podcast below:

Why it's so hard to achieve absolute 'religious neutrality' in Ireland

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

Main image: File photo. Credit Image: © Patrick Swan/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire

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