Report of Atheist Ireland meeting with Council of Europe delegations on human rights
On Monday 27 February, Michael Nugent and Jane Donnelly of Atheist Ireland met two Council of Europe delegations who were in Dublin monitoring Ireland’s record in protecting human rights. They are the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), and the Advisory Committee for the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM).
The delegation members that we met were:
Mr Stephanos Stavros, Executive Secretary to ECRI
Ms Barbara John, member of ECRI in respect of Germany
Ms Alenka Puhar, member of ECRI in respect of Slovenia
Mr. Krzysztof Zyman, member of FCNM Secretariat
Mr Einar Nieme, member of FCNM in respect of Norway
Ms Edita Ziobiene, member of FCNM in respect of Lithuania
We met them at a joint briefing with Stephen O’Hare of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Saoirse Brady of the Free Legal Advice Centres, and Rachel Mullen of the Equality and Rights Alliance.
We gave the delegations the following written submissions:
We also raised the following issues in discussion with them:
Constitution and Law
- Preamble to the Irish Constitution and references to God in the Irish Constitution.
- Religious oaths for President, judges and Council of State.
- Blasphemy and Defamation Act.
- Religious exemptions from equality laws.
- ‘Irish solutions to Irish problems’.
- The Hibernia Teacher Training College course notes. We gave them copies of these course notes.
- The fact that the Irish State absolves itself of the responsibility to educate and delegates that responsibility to private bodies and institutions.
- Discrimination in access to schools.
- Opting out of religion in schools.
- Integrating religion into the curriculum. Section 15 2 (b) of the Education Act 1998
- Religious symbols on uniforms.
- Teacher training.
- Segregation of children in schools according to religion and race of their parents.
- Equal Status Act 2000 and Section 37.1 of Equality Act.
- The failure of the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2004 to protect the human rights of minorities in Irish schools.
- Parents being responsible for the supervision of their children if they opt them out of religion.
- Failure of the Education Act 1998 to oblige schools to write down where exactly they are integrating religion into the curriculum.
- No effective remedy in practice and in law.
The two Council of Europe delegations are in Ireland for this week, and they will also be meeting other advocacy groups and representatives of the Irish Government. They are likely to publish their report and recommendations some time next year, and it will form part of the ongoing monitoring process of human rights protections at Council of Europe level.