Documents about misuse of state funds regarding religious instruction
Since last December, Atheist Ireland has been lobbying to vindicate the constitutional right to not attend religious instruction in schools, and to uphold parental authority in the education of their children, which the Supreme Court has described as a foundational pillar of the Constitution.
As well as lobbying individual politicians and the Oireachtas Education Committee, we have met with the Department of Education and the NCCA. As these constitutional requirements are conditions of the funding of schools, we have also engaged with the Oireachtas Committee on Public Accounts, the Comptroller and Auditor General, and the Minister for Finance.
Over the coming days and weeks we will be publishing all of our correspondence on this issue here, so that you can follow how the arguments have evolved. Please let us know if you would like to to help us with this lobbying campaign after the Oireachtas summer break.
Correspondence leading up to our complaint
- On 21 August 2021, we wrote to the Oireachtas Education Committee regarding students not attending religious instruction in schools and a recent anti-abortion video shown in a school.
- On 6 September 2021, we wrote to the Minister for Education and made a complaint to the Comptroller and Auditor General about the misuse of public funds in this context.
- On 14 September 2021, the Oireachtas Education Committee forwarded our letter to the Secretary General of the Department, and asked him to respond directly to us and to copy his response to them.
- On 26 November 2021, Martin McLoughlin, Principal Officer at the Department, responded to our letter, and copied his response to the Oireachtas Education Committee.
- On 17 December 2021, we responded in detail to Mr McLoughlin’s letter, explaining how the Department was addressing these issues outside of its Constitutional duties and using key definitions that are different to those determined by the Supreme Court. We copied this response to the Oireachtas Education Committee.
26 December 2021 – Atheist Ireland writes to C&AG and PAC
We sent a major report to the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee. We argued that the Department of Education and the NCCA are misusing public funds by ignoring constitutional conditions about the right to not attend religious education in schools.
You can read this report at these links in three parts:
- Executive Summary and Contents
- 1. The State has Funding Duties regarding not attending Religious Instruction
- 2. The State is Misusing Public Funds and not being Transparent or Accountable
The Public Accounts Committee and the Comptroller and Auditor General acknowledged receipt of this report. The C&AG said they had sent it to the unit responsible for the audit of the Department of Education and NCCA for consideration.
17 January 2022 – Minister for Education writes to Atheist Ireland
The Minister for Education wrote to Atheist Ireland. It is the same letter that a Department official sent to us on 26 November 2021, but with the Minister’s signature.
23 January 2022 – Atheist Ireland writes to Minister for Education
Atheist Ireland responded to the Minister for Education. We copied the letter to the Oireachtas Education and Public Accounts Committees and the Comptroller and Auditor General.
8 and 15 February 2022 – Atheist Ireland writes to C&AG and PAC
Following the Supreme Court judgment in the Burke case, Atheist Ireland wrote again to the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee.
1 March 2022 – Atheist Ireland arranges meeting with Department of Education
At an eduction event in Croke Park, we talked with the Minister for Education and senior officials from the Department. We arranged to have a meeting with the Department to discuss our report.
8 March 2022 – NCCA writes to PAC
After our report to the Public Accounts Committee, the Committee wrote to the NCCA for a response. This is the response that the NCCA sent to the Public Accounts Committee.
25 March 2022 – Department of Education writes to PAC
After our report to the Public Accounts Committee, the Committee wrote to the Department of Education for a response. This is the response that the Department sent to the Public Accounts Committee.
Still to come
We will be publishing more of our correspondence on this issue here over the coming days and weeks.
The next item will be about our meeting on 6 May with the Department of Education and the NCCA.