The Irish Catholic newspaper is misrepresenting Eamon Ryan, the Green Party and Atheist Ireland

by Michael Nugent on May 19, 2014

The Irish Catholic Newspaper has published two untrue allegations on its website, one titled ‘Eamon Ryan backs end to funding for Catholic schools’ and the other titled ‘Eamon Ryan backs away from attack on Catholic education’. These articles misrepresent Eamon Ryan, the Green Party and Atheist Ireland.

Both articles falsely claim that Eamon Ryan and the Green Party have signed up to an Atheist Ireland policy statement that State education should be secular, and that religions should have no special financial consideration in public life, such as tax-free status for religious activities, or grants to promote religion or run faith schools.

The second article was published after The Irish Catholic had sought clarification from Atheist Ireland, and after we had clarified that the Green Party had not signed up to the policy position on schools that the Irish Catholic was attributing to them. We have asked them to correct this article and to apologise for misrepresenting us.

A State secular education system and privately funded faith schools and churches are policy positions of Atheist Ireland, not of Eamon Ryan or the Green Party. They are part of the the Dublin Declaration on Secularism and the Place of Religion in Public Life that was adopted by delegates at the World Atheist Convention in Dublin in 2011. Atheist Ireland actively promotes its principles as the basis for an ethical and secular State in Ireland.

For the 2014 local and European elections, Atheist Ireland sought support from candidates for secular policies, using the Dublin Declaration on Secularism as our starting point. Atheist Ireland has Regional Committees who were free to decide on adaptations to the Dublin Declaration on Secularism, to suit the particular conditions on the ground in their regions at this time.

Among the first European Parliament candidates to endorse this process was Mark Dearey of the Green Party, who had discussions with Atheist Ireland’s Cavan Monaghan branch chairperson John Hamill, and who agreed on a revised version of the Dublin Declaration that evolved into the Secular Statement that Atheist Ireland is asking candidates to endorse.

This Secular Statement says the following about secular education:

  • Citizens in Ireland should have the option of a secular education for their children. While all children may be taught about the diversity of religious and non-religious beliefs in an objective manner, no faith formation with respect to any particular religion should be imposed.
  • Children in Ireland should be educated in ethical, reasoned and critical thinking, with science education being free from religious interference.
  • Children in Ireland whose parents desire a secular education for them (either due to an absence of religious faith or due to a wish for faith formation to take place outside of school hours) should not be ostracised or disadvantaged.

This is what Mark Dearey of the Green Party wrote on signing this statement:

“I am happy to have concluded a detailed exploration of the issues around the Secular Statement issued by the Cavan Monaghan Branch of Atheist Ireland. I found their approach to be respectful of all faiths and none, and the dialogue was sufficiently flexible to allow both sides learn from each other and to find common ground on the role of politics vis a vis matters of religious belief.
The document triggered a discussion within the Green Party about the duty of politics to ensure that political and constitutional frameworks support all people to hold whatever views they wish with regard to faith and religious practice. It’s been  helpful process and although I am the one signing the statement, Eamon Ryan in Dublin and Grace O’Sullivan in Ireland South are both in agreement”.

This is an article in the Northern Standard newspaper about the Green party signing the statement.

We will give the Irish Catholic newspaper the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they were sincere in their original mistaken belief that the Green Party had signed up to the Dublin Declaration on Secularism as opposed to the Secular Statement.

However, the distinction between the two documents had been clarified to them before they published the second article. We have asked them to correct this article and to apologise for misrepresenting us.

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