Jane Donnelly and I attended the launch yesterday of the FLAC report on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Ireland. The report will be forwarded to the United Nations as part of Ireland’s questioning about its obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Atheist Ireland was one of 50 civil society groups to participate in drafting and to endorse the report. Our primary focus was promoting the right of employees to work free from religious discrimination, and the rights of children to secular non-denominational education.
“This research is intended to provide a broader, more inclusive source of information from a wide variety of diverse organisations throughout Ireland for the Committee,” explained FLAC Director General Noeline Blackwell. “So while FLAC is presenting the report, it actually reflects the evidence from a range of organisations and individuals who are working at ground level nationally and locally to promote and defend human rights. This makes the report a strong, authentic reflection to government and the State of the lived experience of how human rights are implemented in Ireland.”
Issues arising in the report cover such areas as education, health, housing, workers’ rights, social security, employment, protection of families and cultural life. “As we did our research, we found that the recession of the last six years had done great damage to the capacity of many people to live in dignity across the broad array of rights that affect the lives of people. We did not see the evidence that the State had taken the protection of those human rights into account in the various austerity measures imposed. This remains a challenge for the State as it has a binding legal commitment to protect and promote fundamental human rights even in recessionary times.
The recommendations most relevant to Atheist Ireland in the report are:
In certain workplaces with a religious ethos, workers experience discrimination where their sexual orientation, civil/marital status or gender identity is considered to conflict with the ethos of the institution.
- Amend the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011 as a matter of priority to remove all forms of discrimination against employees or potential employees of religious-run institutions in the fields of education and health/
There continues to be a lack of non-denominational or multi-denominational schools despite the ongoing divestment of patronage of primary schools by the Catholic Church.
- Continue the divestment of schools at a faster rate to ensure greater multi and non-denominational school options are available for school-going children
- Ensure that minority religion-schools are not disproportionately impacted by rationalisation measures.
Atheist Ireland has asked FLAC to strengthen the recommendation with regard to non-denominational schools, to reflect the concluding recommendation of the UN Human Rights Committee in July that Ireland should make non-denominational duration available throughout the State, rather than merely speeding up the divestment rate.
The relevant UN Human Rights Committee recommendation is
The Human Rights Committee is concerned about the slow progress in increasing access to secular education through the establishment of non-denominational schools, divestment of the patronage of schools and the phasing out of integrated religious curricula in schools accommodating minority faith or non-faith children.
It said Ireland should introduce legislation to prohibit discrimination in access to schools on the grounds of religion, belief or other status, and ensure that there are diverse school types and curriculum options available throughout the State party to meet the needs of minority faith or non-faith children.
Atheist Ireland will also be making a report directly to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as part of our ongoing campaign for equality before the law, freedom of conscience and belief, and freedom from discrimination on the ground of religion in Ireland.