Religious education in Ireland

Authored by: Conor O’Mahony

The Routledge International Handbook of Religious Education

Print publication date:  August  2012
Online publication date:  February  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415536301
eBook ISBN: 9780203106075
Adobe ISBN: 9781136256424


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In any comparison of international approaches to the protection of religious liberty in the education setting, Ireland, bythestandards of aWesternliberal democracy, provides aparticularly unusual case study. For various historical and demographic reasons, the approach in Ireland has emphasised the protection of the free practice of religion, through a permissive and at times facilitative approach towards denominational education, with a lesser emphasis being placed on the protection of religious liberty per se and on the prohibition of religious discrimination. The result of this is that members of large religious groups—particularly members of the Roman Catholic faith—enjoy unusually strong rights around their religious freedom in the education system, while members of minority faiths and of none find themselves subject to a variety of pressures on their religious freedom, stemming from both legal norms and practical realities. This chapter will show how this approach has developed and operated in practice, and how the deeply embedded nature of the current approach causes efforts at reform to encounter both serious resource difficulties and barriers based on the prevailing concept of religious freedom.

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