Secular Sunday #473 – The Catholic Church evangelises cultures

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The Catholic Church evangelises cultures


The Mother and Baby Homes report naively suggests that the Catholic Church merely reflected the values of Irish society. That is not correct. The Catholic Church has a policy of evangelising cultures. You can read about it on the Vatican website.

The Pontifical Council for Culture says that “What matters is to evangelise man’s culture and cultures, in a vital way, in depth and right to their very roots.” Pope Francis says that that “It is imperative to evangelise cultures in order to inculturate the Gospel.”

Just three months ago, the Irish Catholic Bishops held a series of Zoom conferences titled “Evangelising Irish Culture Today.” That is how the Catholic Church got so much control in the Ireland of the past, and still controls most of our State-funded schools today.

If we are to properly address the Church scandals of the past, and to vindicate everybody’s human and civil rights today, we must recognise this policy and work towards complete separation of Church and State in Ireland.

Please join Atheist Ireland as a member and help us to continue to promote an ethical, secular State that promotes neither religion or atheism. We are a voluntary organisation and we depend on our members to continue our work. You can join here.

– Secular Sunday Editorial Team

Éire Aindiach

Éire Aindiach


Chun ár gcuid feachtais a leathnú agus a neartú, tá sé beartaithe ag Éire Aindiach níos mó úsáid a bhaint as an Ghaeilge.
Ba mhaith linn meitheal a eagrú, chun cuidiú le:
  • Polasaithe agus feachtais Éire Aindiach a phlé ar an raidió nó ar an teilifís
  • Cuidiú le doiciméid ghaeilge a scríobh
  • Bualadh le polaiteoirí chun stocaireacht a dhéanamh
Táimid i mbun aistriúcháin a dhéanamh ar dhoiciméid polasaí faoi láthair, agus teastaíonn cabhair uainn le aistriúchán agus profáil.  Más maith leat bheith páirteach san iarracht seo, cur ríomhphost chugainn ag
English translation:

To broaden and strengthen our campaigns, Atheist Ireland have undertaken to make more use of the Irish language.
We are looking to assemble a group of volunteers, to help with:

  • Discussing our policies and campaigns on radio or tv
  • Helping to write documents in Irish
  • Meeting with politicians to lobby them
We are in the process of translating policy documents at the moment, and we need some help with translating and proofreading.  If you would like to assist with this effort, please email us at

Atheist Ireland News


Church and State still undermine the right to not attend religious instruction in schools

Another year begins, and Church and State continue to undermine the Constitutional right to not attend religious instruction in schools. This is an area where there is no separation of Church and State, and where the State instead enables the mission of the Catholic Church to evangelise.
There is a Constitutional right to not attend religious instruction in publicly funded schools in Ireland (Article 44.2.4 Irish Constitution). The Constitution clearly states ‘without attending religious instruction’.

“Legislation providing State aid for schools shall not discriminate between schools under the management of different religious denominations, nor be such as to affect prejudicially the right of any child to attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction at that school.”

The Legal Opinion that Atheist Ireland got last year states the following about this right:-

“From a constitutional perspective, it seems to me that the right encompasses, at the very least, the right to leave the classroom during religious instruction while remaining supervised or to be taught another subject. As between these two possibilities, there is a decent argument that schools should not give more teaching time to some students over others on the basis that the latter has opted out as to do so is to discriminate against the student on religious grounds.”
“Schools that provide religious instruction must also put the detailed arrangements for those not attending in their Admission Policies as per Section 62(7)(n) Education Act 1998 (paras 106-7). The provision commenced on 1st February 2020 and plainly requires schools to (i) put in place arrangements for students wishing to not attend religious instruction, (ii) to ensure that those arrangements do not result in a reduction of the school day, and (iii) that such arrangements are documented”

The vast majority of children who manage to exercise their Constitutional right to not attend religious instruction are left sitting in the class and no other subject is offered. Successive Ministers for Education have done nothing to put in place statutory guidelines to give practical application to the Constitutional right to not attend religious instruction.
The reason for this is that the Catholic Church is afraid that if practical application is given to the Constitutional right to not attend religious instruction, then there will be an avalanche of children seeking to exercise that right, and their evangelising mission in publicly funded schools will be curtailed. The State has always supported the Catholic Church by refusing to give practical application to the right to not attend religious instruction.
The recent Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018 is a case in point. Section 62-7(n) of this Act requires schools to put in their Admission Policies the arrangements for students that decide to not attend religious instruction. Schools including the ETBs have just ignored this.
The purpose of Section 62-7(n) of the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018 was enhance transparency in the education system and protect the rights of families. Despite Atheist Ireland writing to the Minister Norma Foley, TDs asking parliamentary questions, and the Oireachtas Joint Education Committee asking the Minister to address questions about the matter, nothing has been done to rectify it.
Atheist Ireland will continue to lobby on this matter until the State obliges schools to vindicate the Constitutional rights of parents and children. Read online…

The Irish State continues to help the Catholic Church to evangelise schoolchildren

The Irish State continues to help the Catholic Church to evangelise schoolchildren. In our education system, Church and State policy is to develop values to enable children to come to an understanding of the relevance of religion to their lives. Children are taught to respect religious beliefs and their codes of conduct. This is not just in the religion courses developed by the Patron bodies, but also courses developed by the State.
The Main Aim of the State Religious Education course at second level is:

Religious Education aims to develop knowledge, understanding, skills, attitudes and values to enable young people to come to an understanding of religion and its relevance to life, relationnships, society and the wider world. It aims to develop the students’ ability to examine questions of meaning, purpose and relationships, to help students understand, respect and appreciate people’s expression of their beliefs, and to facilitate dialogue and reflection on the diversity of beliefs and vlaues that inform responsible decison-making and ways of living.”

Developing values in children from atheist, humanist and non religious families to enable them to see the relevance of religion to their lives is part of our culture. Successive Ministers for Education, the ETBs, the NCCA, the TUI and teachers all have claimed that this is suitable for all religions and none.
If the main aim of any course was to develop values to enable all students to see the relevance of atheism to their lives, it would be seen as indoctrination. But the people who control and influence our education system cannot see the problem with doing this for religion. They won’t even question it, they just accept that it is in order to do this and keep telling us that curriculum religion is suitable for all religions and none.
Catholicism evangelises cultures. Because of the influence of the Catholic church in Ireland, Irish culture see no issue with evangelising and teaching children to respect beliefs, religious codes of conduct and developing values to enable children to see the relevance of religion to their lives.
The Irish State is not neutral with regard to religions and beliefs. It evangelises and enables the mission of the Catholic church. It undermines the rights of minorities by giving no practical application to their rights in the education system.
State enables evangelisation
There is a Constitutional Right to not attend religious instruction but the State has never put in place any statutory guidelines to ensure that this right is given practical application on the ground. If parents do manage to ensure their children are not taught religion, no other subject is offered and they are left sitting in the religion class. This is religious discrimination. The state does nothing about this, and continues to ensure that this right is given no practical application on the ground.
In 2018 the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act was passed. Section 62-7(n) of the Act obliges schools to put in their Admission Policies the arrangements for children not attending religious instruction. The schools have ignored this and despite Atheist Ireland raising this issue with the Minister for Education, she has done nothing to compel them to follow the legislation.
In 2018 the Department of Education issued a Circular Letter to all ETB schools. The Circular Letter gave students an option to pick another subject if they decided not to attend curriculum religion classes. The Catholic Church, the ETBI, the Teachers Union of Ireland and the Religion Teachers Association all complained to the Minister at the time (Richard Bruton) and the Circular was reversed. Read more…

Evangelise minorities

It is the policy of Catholic schools to evangelise minorities. In Ireland this happens with funding from the state as the majority of schools have a Catholic ethos. There is no separation of church and state in the Irish education system.

Atheist Ireland letter to BAI about ‘blasphemous’ RTE comedy sketch

Atheist Ireland has sent the following letter to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
Dear BAI,
We understand that RTE is reporting itself to the BAI for breaching your Code of Programme Standards regarding a comedy sketch broadcast on its New Years Eve Countdown show. While RTE has its own internal editorial guidelines, we understand that your consideration should be whether the BAI requirements alone would forbid the sketch from being shown.
You may also have other complaints about this sketch. As RTE is not defending its own sketch, we would like you to consider these defences of the sketch from Atheist Ireland. They are based on arguments that RTE itself has previously made to you while defending itself against similar complaints, and on your agreement with those arguments from RTE. These include the nature of undue offence in the context of satire, the timing of the broadcast, and that the target of the sketch is not religion or religious people.
We would also like you to consider the following issues:

  • The bar as to whether something is “undue offence” evolves over time. You should consider the passing of the blasphemy referendum when considering the recent evolution of this bar. This is the first high profile case arising from complaints of blasphemy since the law against blasphemy was removed.
  • There is a difference between (a) broadcasting the sketch in the first place live on the television, and (b) having it available with a warning on the RTE online player where nobody will unexpectedly come across it. Your ruling could have consequences for an unknown amount of material that is currently available on the RTE player and YouTube Channel.
  • Under Section 9 of the Code, as well as the requirement to tolerate the diversity of religious belief, RTE also has a positive duty to ensure that “diverse religious voices should be part of the national conversation reflected in RTÉ’s content, including those of people who are agnostic or atheistic.” One such atheistic belief is the sincerely held philosophical conviction that certain religious beliefs are harmful (including stories about underage children being made pregnant on the word of a stranger) and that RTE has a positive duty to reflect this conviction, including through satire, as part of the diversity of the national conversation.

1. The BAI Code of Programme Standards in relation to material that causes “undue offence”
In complaints 10-32/17 (about describing the Eucharist as “haunted bread” and “cannibalism”), RTE made the following defences that are relevant to this case:

  • The phrase was certainly provocative. The contributor used it to get a reaction, and indeed it did.
  • In attempting to hear new voices, it is inevitable that some will not like what they hear.
  • Uncomfortable or unpopular opinions are part of debate as are views that clash or disagree with mainstream consensus.
  • The preamble to the BAI Code states: Those matters which cause offence can, and frequently do, differ from person to person and are largely subjective in their nature. Acknowledging this, there can be no guarantee that programme material will be free from offence. There is no right not to be offended and, for broadcasters, it is to be expected that, in fulfilling their duty to provide a diverse range of programming that caters to a diverse audience, there will be programming that causes offence to some members of the audience.
  • The broadcast began at 11.20pm, significantly after the watershed which marks the transition to purely adult viewing.

In complaint 138/15 (about a parody of the Biblical Last Supper story), RTE made the following defences that are relevant to this case:

  • While, as comedy, its content may not be to the taste of all listeners, and indeed may offend some, it is not beyond the bounds of acceptable community standards.
  • The BAI has previously acknowledged the role of satirical comedy, including in response to BAI Referral No 88/15: It is common for [satirical comedy programmes] to treat topics in a humorous and sometimes vulgar manner. It also common for such programmes to push the boundaries of acceptable content and this is a well-established aspect of comedy programming.

In complaint 88/15 (about a song describing God as a right feckin’ bollix), RTE made the following defences that are relevant to this case: Read more…

The right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds

The UN has said that people have a right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds.
Refusing or curtailing the use of satire in relation to religious beliefs undermines that right.

UN to raise secular education again with Ireland

The UN Human Rights Committee has raised the Irish education system in its List of Issues under the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights. They raised the right to freedom of religion and belief in the Irish Education system. Atheist Ireland had made a Submission to the UN about these issues which you can find here

Catholic sex education in Irish schools


This is the Department of Education being questioned at the Oireachtas Education Committee re sex education in Irish schools. Curriculum sex education is delivered through the ethos of the schools. There are no plans to amend the Education Act 1998 to stop this from happening.

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The Angelus

The daily Angelus on RTE is a Catholic call to prayer that comes from the same culture that locked up Irish women – watch Jane Donnelly of Atheist Ireland on RTE eight years ago

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Calling concerned teachers

If you are a teacher and concerned about unwanted religious influence contact Chris at


List of Atheist Ireland Submissions



Buy this book “Is My Family Odd About Gods?”

**Schools Special Offer**

As Covid continues and schools start back online, Atheist Ireland are offering the book ‘Is my family odd about godsfree (excluding postage and packaging).  This means that you can get this book for the total price of 10 euro. This offer is aimed at families with school going children, who would like to read this book during their online school term. This offer is limited to one book per family unit and for postage within Ireland only. Read more…

Have you noticed that your school and your teachers may tell you one thing about religion, while some of your friends and family may have different ideas about god?
If you think that this is a little odd, then this book is for you. Buy this book here.


Lessons about Atheism

Atheist Ireland has published a set of free lesson plans about atheism for children aged 8 and up. We welcome feedback, which we will use to develop the lessons. You can download the lesson plans here



Be Good without Gods


Atheist Ireland ‘Good Without Gods’ Kiva team members have made loans of  $30,550 to 1079 entrepreneurs in the developing world. You can join the team here. Before you chose a loan, make sure you do not support religious groups. You can check the loan partner’s social and secular rating here.

Atheist Ireland’s ‘‘ is a place where people can publicly renounce the religion of their childhood. Currently there are 1787 symbolic defections. Many share their reasons for making a public symbolic defection which you can read here.

52 people registered this week. This was also the week when the Mother and Baby home’s report was published. 


Petition on Schools Equality PACT 

Atheist Ireland currently runs one petition – The Schools Equality PACT. This seeks to reform religious discrimination in state-funded schools. Currently this stands at 4,042 Help us reach it’s target of 5000. Please sign and share this petition if you haven’t already done so. Thank you.

Tell us what you think

Have you any feedback that you would like to give us on the Secular Sunday newsletter. What are we getting right? What could we improve on? Is there something you would like to see included? Drop us an email at

Please consider joining or re-joining Atheist Ireland

Atheist Ireland is an entirely volunteer run organisation. We receive no grants or government funding to continue our campaign work. We rely entirely on membership fess and donations.

Annual membership is nominal; €25 waged, €10 unwaged/student and €40 for family membership. Please consider becoming a member. Membership means:

  • You can help to build an ethical and secular Ireland.
  • You have a say in determining policy and electing officers.
  • You can attend members meetings and our AGM.
  • You will have access to our members only Facebook group
  • Your membership fee will go towards supporting our many campaigns.

You can join Atheist Ireland here.

Thank you for your continued support


Atheist Ireland Committee



Take Action

Update 4: Facts surrounding #JusticeForZaraKay


By The International Coalition of Ex-Muslims


The International Coalition of Ex-Muslims has issued three statements on Zara Kay’s case, which can be found here. However, given the apparent need for additional clarification, please find the following for those with a genuine interest in the case:
1. On Zara’s initial Tweet that her police custody was related to blasphemy: On 28 December, a family member called Zara and told her to come into the Dar es-Salaam Oysterbay Police Station about her posts. After that call, Zara Tweeted that she was “going into the police station because someone reported me in for blasphemy.” Since she had recently posted the following ‘blasphemous’ Tweets, and because of the threats around the issue of blasphemy that is customary for ex-Muslims, it is reasonable that she believed that she was being asked to report to the station for that purpose. Read more…

MPs raise persecution of humanists in India


By Humanists UK


MPs raised the plight of humanists in India in a debate in the House of Commons yesterday. Many humanists have been seriously persecuted in India. Several have been murdered in recent years for blasphemy, and people can be imprisoned for the same supposed crime. Humanists UK has welcomed their interventions.
Freedom of religion or belief has only deteriorated under the current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. What is more, the 2019 Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which received lots of publicity for not giving Muslims the same path to citizenship as those of various other religions, similarly excludes humanists/non-religious people.

Raise awarness on blasphemy law abuse




Monday 18th  at 6.30pm – Humanists UK – Secularism and freedom of religion or belief – the global view – cost 5 GBP.



One of Atheist Ireland’s members asked us to share the following

Monday 1st at 7pm – Women Leaving Islam — CEMB Premiere

Thursday, 11th at 2pm Free online conference – registration required ‘How should a liberal democracy react to conscientious objection claims?’

Opinion and Media

Material on atheism, secularism, human rights,politics,science etc. collected from media and the blogosphere from Ireland and beyond; used without permission, compensation, liability, guarantee or implied endorsement. We aim to include a variety of diverse opinions and viewpoints.


Blogs & Opinions



This week saw the Government publication of Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes

State spent decades paying Catholic Church to hide society’s problems


By Paul Williams


The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes report has returned the spotlight to the darkest recesses of the unholy alliance between Church and State after independence, which treated the most vulnerable and downtrodden in society with contempt and abject cruelty. Read more…

Mother-and-baby homes report shows Catholic Church was ‘most complicit’ – McAleese


By RTE News Reporter


Former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, said the report by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes showed the Catholic Church was “most complicit” in what happened. “The Church was most complicit, alongside a subservient State,” she told RTÉ’s Brendan O’Connor programme. Read more…

It’s time to tell the truth – give survivors their data


By Simon McGarr


Children Roderic O’Gorman’s claim that sealing the testimonies of mother and baby home survivors was a data protection issue was wrong and illegal. Last October, the Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman announced his plan to have the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Inquiry transfer its invaluable archive of documents and testimony to him. Read more…

Mother and baby home adoptions may have been legal but that does not make them right


By Máiréad Enright


The Mother and Baby Homes Commission Report demonstrates the state’s continuing failure to communicate with survivors and recognise their experience. To illustrate this point, I want to discuss one of the Report’s most important conclusions; that there was “very little evidence” of “forced adoption” in Ireland in the period 1922-1998.. Read more…

Catherine Corless: Government efforts to help mother and baby homes survivors ‘half-hearted’

By Stephen McDermott

HISTORIAN CATHERINE CORLESS has described efforts by the government to provide mother and baby home survivors access to their identities as “half-hearted”.  Speaking ahead of a State apology by the Taoiseach in the Dáil to those who lived in the homes today, Corless also called on the Catholic Church to formally apologise for their role in managing the institutions.  Read more…

Government’s big gesture left in tatters by calm, articulate anger –
Catherine Connolly’s compelling, clear-eyed speech stood out over all the apologies


By Miriam Lord


Catherine Connolly speaks very softly. In the vast auditorium it was difficult to catch her words. But for once in Dáil Éireann’s soulless second home, the setting seemed appropriate. Yet another woman standing alone and struggling to be heard? Not this time. But the dimly lit emptiness added to the sense of lost voices and forgotten promises. Read more…

Efforts to avoid ‘public scandal’ created the greatest scandal of all


By Diarmaid Ferriter


One of the consistent themes in the various reports relating to the experiences of Irish institutionalisation is the historic preoccupation with “avoiding public scandal”. But what if it was too late and the scandal had already occurred? Read more…

The State and Church worked together to oppress


By Una Mullally


On Tuesday, at a press conference, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin, said “we did this to ourselves.” Martin was of course talking about the report into the Mother and Baby Homes. Who is this “we”?. Read more…


State and church and healthcare – Letter To The Irish Times


By Dr Peter Boylan


Sir, – The Catholic Church cannot escape responsibility for the formation of Irish societal attitudes towards unmarried mothers and their children which resulted in the shameful treatment detailed in a series of reports of which the mother and baby homes is just the latest. Church control of education, enabled by supine politicians, was fundamental and near total. Today, 91 per cent of Irish primary school children attend Catholic Church-sponsored schools. Read more…

Do you think RTÉ should stop playing the Angelus?


By Gráinne Ní Aodha


THE ANGELUS IS a one-minute Catholic reflection that is aired daily on RTÉ Radio at 12 noon and 6pm, and on RTÉ One at 6pm, since the inception of the public service broadcaster. Read more…

Things To Get Offended About


By Waterford Whispers


  • SOMEONE WITHIN government or the civil service leaking details of the Mother & Baby Homes report to newspapers.The Sunday Independent publishing it. Meaning this is how survivors first learned details from the report including that 9,000 children died in mother and baby homes.
  • The human trafficking of children by the church. For profit.
  • The ever increasing price of Fredo bars.
  • Nuns forging the signatures of mothers on adoption papers.
  •  Read online…

Atheist Ireland’s Peter Hinchliffe was interviewed in theKerryman

The God delusion… or blatant disrespect?

By Stephen Fernane


Peter Hinchliffe is the Kerry Representative of Atheist Ireland. The Abbeydorney man feels the reaction to the sketch did not happen in ‘a bubble’ and that the account of the Virgin Mary’s impregnation was not written by atheists or non-believers but was passed down and taught by the church. In the opposite corner is Fr Kevin McNamara of Moyvane Parish. He has come out firmly against the RTÉ sketch, describing the skit as insensitive and shameful, especially at Christmas time. Both men have decided to give their views on the controversy and on the wider issue of faith versus non-faith.  Read more…



Polish Women Begin Trial for Depicting the Virgin Mary with a Rainbow Halo


By Hemant Mehta


In 2019, a 51-year-old Polish woman was arrested for the worst possible crime imaginable: She allegedly hung up posters depicting the Virgin Mary… with a rainbow halo on her head. In fact, three women were eventually arrested for the crime of blasphemy for that same reason: Elżbieta Podleśna, Anna Prus and Joanna Gzyra-Iskandar Podleśna. Read more…

Schools should teach business and sexuality using pope’s writings, says Polish education minister


By Daniel Tilles


The teachings of former Polish pope John Paul II should be used to instruct children in Polish schools in business and sexuality, says education minister Przemysław Czarnek. “When we teach the foundations of entrepreneurship, we could introduce passages from papal encyclicals on what is work, the free market, social justice, and so on,” said Czarnek, who was appointed in November and has drawn controversy over his ultraconservative views. Read more…

US set for flurry of ‘Christian nationalist’ bills advanced by religious right


By Adam Gabbatt


Donald Trump is set to leave the White House and Republicans are about to relinquish control of the Senate, but experts are warning the US is facing a wave of rightwing ‘Christian nationalist’ legislation in 2021, as the religious right aims to thrust Christianity into everyday American life. With the supreme court now dominated by Trump-appointed conservative justices, elected officials in states across the country are set to introduce bills which would hack away at LGTBQ rights, reproductive rights, challenge the ability of couples to adopt children, and see religion forced into classrooms, according to a report by the American Atheists organization. Read more…

The freedom to offend


By Khadija Khan


The term ‘Islamophobia’ was coined to define anti-Muslim bigotry but in reality, the usage of this term has degraded it to a tool to censor unwanted and opposing views. A recent Twitter row between two prominent British writers, Ash Sarkar and Julie Burchill, has made it explicit how and why the misuse of the term Islamophobia has stripped it of any relevance. Read more…

Government issues notice to Jewish school which taught creationism


By the National Secular Society


The government has issued a statutory notice to a Jewish independent school which failed an inspection after being found teaching creationism as science and refusing to enter pupils for GCSEs. Bnois Jerusalem Girls School in north London was found ‘inadequate’ in all areas in an Ofsted inspection in December 2019 and has failed to meet standards in multiple recent inspections. Read more…

Religious conversion isn’t a charitable endeavour


By Megan Manson


Some registered charities exist primarily to convert members of one religion to another. Megan Manson says such activity is harmful to community cohesion – and shouldn’t be treated as a valid charitable purpose. In the UK’s increasingly diverse society, community cohesion is essential to ensure all people from all walks of life can get along. At the NSS we see secularism as the best means of fostering social cohesion. Read more…

If you are a blogger or vlogger writing or talking about atheism, secularism, ethics, skepticism, human rights etc. and would like us to include your work here please email the link to


Podcasts, Videos and Interviews


Do you host an Irish-based podcast on atheism, secularism, science, skepticism, human rights etc.? Let us know and we will link to it here.

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RTE Player – Finné
Dr. Andrew Rynne recalls his career as Ireland’s first vasectomy doctor, and as a pioneering contraceptive rights campaigner during the 70s and 80s

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Newstalk podcast – Is it time to end the Catholic Church’s dominance in Ireland’s school system?

Newstalk podcast – Mother and Baby Homes report was biased in favour of the Church – Catherine Corless


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“The Abidjan Principles promises to be the new reference point for governments, educators and education providers when debating the respective roles and duties of states and private actors in education”

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Freethought Radio – Humanism for Kids – Elle Harris

Media Watch

News and views from Ireland and around the world. Sharing is not an endorsement. 


Mother and Baby Home Report Coverage



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