Some Achievements of Atheist Ireland
Atheist Ireland has had many successes since we were founded in 2008. We have normalised the use of the word atheism, and we have successfully lobbied to change the constitution and several laws. We continue to campaign to bring about a secular Constitution, parliament, laws, and health and education systems. Here are some of our achievements to date:
- Repeal of the Blasphemy Law: Atheist Ireland led the campaign to repeal the 2010 Blasphemy Law and successfully campaigned for a Blasphemy Referendum to be called.
- Blasphemy Referendum: Atheist Ireland played a major part in ensuring a 65% to 35% successful yes vote to revoke the Irish Blasphemy Law in the 2017 Referendum.
- In August 2020 Atheist Ireland successfully acquired and published a legal opinion regarding students’ rights to not attend religious instructionand to be supervised or be given an alternative subject, under Article 44.2.4° (and other Articles) of the Constitution. Atheist Ireland has successfully shown that one such consequence of this legal opinion is a teacher being placed in the legal conflict between adherence to Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act versus respecting the constitutional rights of the child under Article 44.2.4 to not attend religious instruction, the inalienable rights of parents to respect for their convictions under Article 42.1, and the rights of atheists, humanists, and secularists to freedom of conscience under Article 44.2.1 and personal rights under 40.3.1. Atheist Ireland has sent this legal opinion to the teaching unions, the Minister of Education, the Department of Education and Skills, the National Parents Council and other educational partners. Meetings with education partners have been successfully arranged.
- United Nations, European Union etc : Atheist Ireland has successfully informed, lobbied and presented submissions to the UN and EU on education, which have facilitated national and international awareness of the State continuing to deny minorities their human rights. For example, the UN Human Rights Committee, the European Commission of Human Rights and the Irish Human Rights Commission have recommended that the Education Act 1998 be amended to ensure that the curriculum is delivered in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner.
- Highlighting equality and rationality: Atheist Ireland has successfully addressed various Oireachtas Committees, the Constitutional Convention, Citizens Assembly, United Nations Committees, the OSCE, Council of Europe bodies, and the Presidents of the European Union.
- Elimination of Discrimination against women: In 2017 the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) recommended that Ireland should integrate objective compulsory sex education into the school curriculum and should closely monitor and evaluate its delivery by schools. This was a result of Atheist Ireland raising this issue with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). It was the first time the UN examined sex education in Irish schools. Atheist Ireland is a member and supporter of the National Women’s Council of Ireland.
- Promoting Reason, Rationality and Atheism: Atheist Ireland successfully organises numerous meetings, lunches, information tables, social media outlets, debates, lesson plans, social events and regularly contributes to TV/Radio programmes. Parallel to this, the number of people identifying as non-religious was nearly 470,000 in 2016 (Irish Census 2016).
- Irish Census Reform: Advocacy from Atheist Ireland has helped many census questions to be updated, (including those on religion), for Census 2021.
- Improvements in secular education: Advocacy from Atheist Ireland has helped bring about changes to the Equal Status Act and Education Act.
- Repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution: Atheist Ireland was a member of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendmentand played a prominent role in the successful repeal.
- Promoting understanding and tolerance etc: Despite different world points of view, Atheist Ireland works with the Ahmadi Muslims and Evangelical Alliance to promote secularism within education.
- Covid-19 Activities: Despite the pandemic and lockdown Atheist Ireland has managed to continue its advocacy and support activities via online lobbying, remote video online meetings, email and social media communications etc. This includes a Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues and a Draft Submission to UNCRC (UN Committee on the Rights of the Child).
- Good Friday alcohol ban lifted: Following lobbying from Atheist Ireland and others, the Dáil (Irish Parliament) in January 2018 passed, with all-party support, a Bill to overturn the 90-year-long ban on alcohol being sold in Ireland on Good Friday. This success was celebrated in the pub by Atheist Ireland on Good Friday March 30th,
- Religious discrimination: Atheist Ireland continues to lobby in order to highlight and end religious discrimination in Irish schools. Atheist Ireland’s PACT campaign has increased public awareness of educational discrimination in Patronage – Access- Curriculum – Teachers. For example, Atheist Ireland continues to argue against Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act which discriminates against teachers.
- ETB Schools: In 2018 the Department of Education issued Circular Letter 0013/2018obliging schools to consult parents in ETB schools and colleges in relation to what type of religious teaching they wanted. Using FOI requests, Atheist Ireland has highlighted how schools are ignoring this circular (and its clarification) and thereby disrespecting the rights of parents and their children.
- ‘One Oath for All’: In Ireland, any citizen wishing to take office as the President, a Judge, the Taoiseach or on the Council of State, must swear a religious oath. This excludes conscientious atheists as candidates and is a breach of the human right to freedom of conscience and belief. In November 2018 Atheist Ireland launched a ‘One Oath for All’ campaign in order to further highlight the discriminatory nature of such oaths and to demand their abolition
- Atheist Ireland successfully increased public awareness of (i) the constitutional right to not attend religious classes in state-funded schools (Article 44.2.4) and, (ii) that the Irish language version of the Irish Constitution takes legal precedence. (In Article 44.2.4 ‘Teagasc creidimh’ means teaching religion, not teaching in accordance with the requirements of one religion: so you have the right to not attend religion classes of any kind in a school that receives state funding.) Due, in part, to the work of Atheist Ireland, the Department of Education in 2018 issued Circular Letter 0013/2018 obliging schools to consult parents in ETB schools and colleges in relation to what type of religious teaching they wanted.
- Atheist Ireland’s Briefing Document (March 2019) highlighted how the Department of Education, ETBs, and NCCA are Breaching Constitutional and Human Rights and the IHREC Act
in Religious Education. Atheist Ireland continues to bring pressure to bear on these matters including canvassing politicians and political parties during the recent 2020 General Election and an assessment of the Programme for Government.
- Atheist Ireland has, in co-operation with the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Ireland, recently made a submission on The Rights of the Child in Irish schools to The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. This United Nations Committee will soon be questioning Ireland again.