Fine Gael responses to General Election questions from Atheist Ireland
Atheist Ireland has asked political parties and candidates running in the General Election on 8th February to answer ten questions regarding secular issues. Here are the responses from Fine Gael.
1. One Oath For All
Will you support amending the Constitution to enable the President, Judges, and members of the Council of State (which includes Taoiseach and Tanaiste) to swear an oath of loyalty to the state and the Constitution, that has no references to either religious or nonreligious beliefs?
Fine Gael: Our manifesto does not contain a commitment in relation to an oath. In line with our party’s values, we act in a way that is right for Ireland, regardless of dogma or ideology. For further details on our values see here.
2. Secular Education
Will you support amending relevant laws to ensure that publicly-funded schools cannot discriminate on the ground of religion against students in access, and against teachers in employment, and by privileging one religion when appointing publicly-funded chaplains?
Fine Gael: Our manifesto states the following: “We will achieve the target of at least 400 multi-denominational and nondenominational schools by 2030, to improve parental choice. We will continue to uphold the rights of parents to have their children educated in a denominational school. We will protect minority faith schools.” Since 2016 through the establishment of new schools and the transfer of denominational schools into being multi-denominational, 32 primary and 18 post-primary became multi-denominational schools.
3. Alternative Classes to Religion
Parents and students have the right, under the Constitution and Education Act, to attend any publicly-funded school without attending religious teaching. Will you support their right to do this without discrimination, and that they be given an alternative timetabled subject?
Fine Gael: The content of the religious education programme and arrangements for faith formation and sacramental preparation in a primary school is determined by the patron of the school. At post-primary level, the Religious Education curriculum designed by the NCCA is an optional examinable subject at Junior and Leaving Certificate. Schools are not required to include the NCCA-developed Religious Education syllabuses at Junior or Senior Cycle as mandatory subjects on their curriculum.
4. Data Protection in Schools
Will you support the right of parents and students, under the data protection law, to not have to reveal their religious or philosophical convictions, directly or indirectly, when exercising their right to not attend religious teaching or worship in publicly-funded schools?
Fine Gael: We will continue to uphold the rights of parents to have their children educated in a denominational school. We will protect minority faith schools.
5. Objective Sex Education
Will you support amending the Education Act to ensure that students, in all publicly-funded schools, can exercise their right under the European Social Charter to objective sex education that is delivered objectively and not through a religious ethos?
Fine Gael: Fine Gael is committed to ensuring an RSE curriculum that is appropriate to the age and developmental stage of the children in our schools. It is important that we provide future generations with an understanding of the importance of consent, the development of relationships, safe use of the internet and a healthy positive attitude to sexuality.
6. Secular Healthcare
Will you support a publicly-funded healthcare system where decisions are based on human rights and the medical needs of patients, and not on religious ethics, in particular with regard to operation of the new National Maternity Hospital?
Fine Gael: Fine Gael supports a publicly-funded healthcare system. The governance arrangements for the new National Maternity Hospital will be based on the provisions of the Mulvey Agreement. That Agreement provides for the establishment of a new company – National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park DAC- which will have clinical and operational, as well as financial and budgetary independence in the provision of maternity, gynaecology and neonatal services. The Agreement ensures that a full range of health services will be available at the new hospital without religious, ethnic or other distinction.
7. Assisted Dying
Will you support the right of seriously ill people to get the best medical resources if they want to stay alive for as long as they can, and the right of terminally or seriously ill people to have the right to die peacefully when they choose if they want to?
Fine Gael: Fine Gael has no intention of changing existing legislation in regard to the right to die.
8. Solemnising of Marriages
Will you support amending the Civil Registration Act, so that bodies that can nominate solemnisers for marriages are treated equally under the law, instead of having different legal conditions for religious and secular bodies, and for different secular bodies?
Fine Gael: We have no existing plans to amend this legislation but we would be open to examining it.
9. Prejudice-Motivated Crime
Will you support legislation that tackles prejudice against groups through education, and tackles prejudice-motivated crime through the law, while protecting the right to freedom of expression, including about religion, based on human rights principles and standards?
Fine Gael: We have commenced consultation on our incitement to hatred legislation and, if returned to office, we will modernise our laws to ensure that those who seek to encourage and incite others to hate minority groups can be prosecuted. We will identify international best practice in prosecuting hate crime and legislate to create specific offences, to ensure that those who target victims because of their association with a particular identity characteristic, such as their sexual orientation or ethnicity, can be prosecuted.
10. Political Funding and Spending
Will you support stronger regulation of political funding and spending, so that religious bodies have to comply on the same basis as secular bodies, and protect the democratic process from online disinformation and the undue influence of wealthy donors?
Fine Gael: In November we announced legislative proposals which will obligate online paid-for political advertisement to be labelled as such and clearly display certain information, or a link to the information, in a clear and conspicuous manner. This proposal is as an interim measure until the establishment of a Statutory Electoral Commission which will oversee a wider reform of the electoral process.