How did the parties and candidates reply to our questions on secular policies?

Atheist Ireland and the Humanist Association of Ireland are asking voters to vote for candidates who support secular policies in the Irish General Election this Friday.

We realise that most people will vote based on economic policies or party allegiance. In such cases we are asking people that, if several candidates share your views on these wider issues, to please choose the candidate that most supports a rational, ethical, secular Ireland.

Atheist Ireland has received official replies, from the parties and independent candidates, to six questions that we asked them on secular policy issues. You can read the answers from candidates in each constituency here on our website. We also have a secular analysis of each party’s manifesto, written by our lobbying officer, Dr Conor McGrath, a former Westminster lobbyist and university lecturer in political lobbying.

The six secular policy questions that Atheist Ireland asked each party and candidate were about providing nonreligious schools, removing religious references from the Constitution, repealing the blasphemy law, providing nonreligious hospitals, making religions subject to equality and employment law, and making religions pay tax on income that does not come from charitable activities.

We summarise below the secular policy positions of the parties, in alphabetical order, and a link to details of the secular policies of independent candidates in each constituency.

Fianna Fail

The Fianna Fail manifesto contains no commitments at all to advance the secular agenda which Atheist Ireland is working to achieve. Fianna Fail did not answer any of our six secular policy questions.

Fine Gael

The Fine Gael manifesto raises the future possibility of some significant advances, but it is less clear in terms of setting out what the precise policy outcomes would be.

  • A national forum on education: having 90% of primary schools under Church patronage does not reflect the needs of modern Ireland.
  • A law recognising advance healthcare directives for patients facing end-of-life and palliative care treatment.

On our six secular policy questions, Fine Gael answered as follows:

  • Will establish a national forum on education patronage.
  • Will consider the relevance of religious references in the Constitution.
  • Blasphemy should not be a criminal offence.
  • No plans to prevent hospitals from having a religious ethos.
  • Would vote to treat religions equally under equality and employment law.
  • No plans to tax the income of churches as charitable organisations.

Green Party

The Green Party manifesto has very little to say (and then only in quite vague terms) on the policy issues of relevance to the secular perspective.

  • A referendum to establish a citizens assembly which, when elected, would draft a new Constitution which would be put to another referendum.
  • Review the Education Act to look at issues such as Boards of Management, patronage and enrolment.

On our six secular policy questions, The Green Party answered as follows:

  • Will review the Education Act to look at patronage and enrolment.
  • The public should be consulted before proposing Constitutional changes.
  • Supports a referendum to resolve the issues surrounding blasphemy.
  • Health care delivery systems should reflect the diversity of society.
  • Equality and employment law should apply to everyone equally.
  • All earners should contribute fairly to the tax system.

Labour Party

The Labour Party manifesto is detailed and specific. While some secular issues are not addressed, there are a number of important and constructive reforms promised.

  • A convention to draft a new Constitution within a year.
  • A time-limited forum on patronage and pluralism in the primary education sector to provide a diverse number of schools for all religions and none.
  • Will ensure Educate Together is recognized as a patron at second level.
  • Will negotiate the transfer of school infrastructure currently owned by the 18 religious orders cited in the Ryan Report, at no extra cost, to the State.
  • Ensure that trainee teachers no longer are obliged to undergo compulsory religious education.

On our six secular policy questions, The Labour Party answered as follows:

  • Compelling case for a new system of schools patronage.
  • New Constitution to recognise diverse and multi-cultural Ireland.
  • Referendum to remove blasphemy clause from Constitution.
  • Hospital services must respect rights of all in a diverse society.
  • Would vote to treat religions equally under equality and employment law.
  • Wealthiest organisations in society must pay their share in taxation.

Sinn Fein

The Sinn Féin manifesto suggests that the party may be receptive to many of Atheist Ireland’s key policy concerns, but more layers of detail are needed.

  • An all-Ireland forum to draft a new Constitution based on democracy and international human rights standards.
  • Recognise and resource Educate Together and other non-denominational schools at primary and secondary level where there is demand for them.
  • Build an Ireland of Equals where everyone’s rights are guaranteed, free of divisions caused by partition, sectarianism, racism, and other forms of discrimination.

On our six secular policy questions, Sinn Fein answered as follows:

  • Supports the ending of Church control of primary schools.
  • Supports the removal of religious references from the Constitution.
  • Blasphemy should not be a criminal offence.
  • Public hospitals should not be governed by a religious ethos.
  • Would vote to treat religions equally under equality and employment law.
  • Will consider the issue of churches paying tax on non-charitable income.

Socialist Party

We did not receive a reply from the Socialist Party as an organisation. However, all of the replies that we received from individual Socialist Party candidates answered all of our six questions positively.

Workers’ Party

The Workers’ Party manifesto is focused on presenting a clear ideological approach to economic recovery, but includes a commitment to a new secular Constitution.

  • Ireland needs a new secular Constitution, not based on Victorian property values, Catholic morality, and Vatican corporatist principles.

On our six secular policy questions, The Workers’ Party answered as follows:

  • Supports the right of access to schools with no religious ethos.
  • Supports the removal of religious references from the Constitution.
  • Blasphemy should not be a criminal offence.
  • State funded hospitals should not be governed by a religious ethos.
  • Would vote to treat religions equally under equality and employment law.
  • Will consider the issue of churches paying tax on non-charitable income.

Individual Candidates

You can read the answers from individual candidates, including independents, to our six secular policy questions at the following webpage:

http://www.atheist.ie/information/2011-general-election/

The answers are categorised by constituency to help voters to identify which secular candidates they have the opportunity to vote for.

Michael Nugent

3 Comments

  1. Avatar
    steve white February 23, 2011

    did you talk to anyone in Fianna Fail?, did you talk to any of the other parties, was there any more discussion apart form the replies, any chance of them considering doing more?

  2. Avatar
    dj357 February 23, 2011

    It would seem that the Labour party is the one most committed to bringing Ireland into the 21st century and bringing about a secular community

Atheist Ireland