The Labour Party has provided the following response on behalf of all its candidates –
1. Will you work to reform the education system so that all children in your constituency can access publicly-funded schools which have no religious ethos? –
In relation to Education we believe there is a compelling case for moving towards a new system of schools patronage. This will take into account evolving views with regard to religion and education. We acknowledge the increasing numbers of people who want to opt for non-denominational or inter-denomination education for their children. Our Spokesperson, Ruairi Quinn TD, proposed extending the patronage of Vocational Education Committees (VECs) to cover primary schools and in general broadening the role of the local community in this regard. This would see the orderly transfer of existing patronage of some primary schools to other patron bodies, and would reflect modern day practice and observance. It would enable parents to exercise choice.
Some time ago Labour Senator, Ivana Bacik, proposed that a Forum on Education Reform be established to address all relevant issues. This would involve the major stakeholders such as parents, patrons, teachers, principals, students where appropriate and others.
Would you support a referendum to remove religious references from the Constitution?
With regard to the Constitution, we propose the convening of a Convention to prepare a new Constitution fit for a 21st Century Ireland. This must take into account that our country is now more diverse and multi-cultural than when Bunreacht na hEireann was adopted.
Do you believe that blasphemy should be a criminal offence?
Our Party Conference has previously agreed to hold a referendum proposing to delete the word ‘blasphemous’ from Article 4.1.6 of the Constitution and to repeal any legislation that made reference to blasphemy as a form of defamation.
Would you support legislation to prevent hospitals from having a religious ethos?
On the issue of the religious ethos of hospitals, the Labour Party appreciates the role that religious institutions play in our health sector. However, we also believe that the diverse nature of Irish society must be respected in the provision of public services that respects the rights of all citizens.
If elected, would you vote to ensure that religious bodies are treated the same as other organisations under equality and employment legislation?
We believe that all organizations, religious or secular, should be treated equally. We acknowledge the enormous amount of work that many organizations undertake in this society. In relation to employment legislation we simply believe this should apply equally to all.
Do you believe that religions should have to pay their fair share of tax on income that does not come from charitable activities?
The Labour Party believes in fairness. In that respect we believe that the burden of this economic crisis must be borne by those who can most afford it. The wealthiest sectors of our society must pay their share if we are to protect the marginalized.