Atheist Ireland is pleased to announce a successful outcome to our two year campaign to make the appointment procedure for third level college chaplains publicly accountable and open to lay people. We brought Freedom of Information data to the Minister for Education, who responded by instructing the Higher Education Authority to investigate further. Atheist Ireland then met with the HEA as part of the investigation.
The Irish Times has today reported on the outcome of the HEA investigation:
- Third-level college chaplaincies to be open to lay people – Irish Times
- How much do chaplaincy services cost each third-level institution?
Here’s a brief summary: During 2015, Atheist Ireland submitted a detailed series of requests under the Freedom of Information Act, to the Institutes of Technology in Ireland. Those requests related to the funding of chaplaincy services in the colleges. What we discovered was a wholesale breach, across the vast majority of colleges, of public sector appointment rules.
Instead of selecting the best candidate for State-funded positions using objective criteria, colleges have been simply handing large sums of public money to their local Roman Catholic bishop and allowing him to appoint a priest of his choice. However, new requirements will now be imposed on all 26 third level colleges in the State, based on the recommendations of Atheist Ireland.
All of the main recommendations of Atheist Ireland have been accepted by the HEA and all 26 third level colleges in the State will now be informed by the HEA of these new requirements. The extract from the HEA report below, details the conclusions that have been reached and the next steps.
The requirement that all colleges must adhere to their constitutional obligations in chaplaincy funding (and the associated move away from clerical chaplains and towards lay chaplains) represents a vindication of the Atheist Ireland arguments on this topic over a number of years. The requirement for chaplaincy positions to be filled through the Public Appointments Service (as opposed to the existing process of simply awarding public contracts to Roman Catholic bishops in secret) also mirrors the consistent demand of Atheist Ireland throughout this process.
Atheist Ireland notes the HEA commitment to both applying these new requirements and also monitoring their implementation. As colleges look towards a new academic year in September, Atheist Ireland will also be seeking to ensure that these very welcome changes are realised in full, for the benefit of both the public purse and third level students of all faiths and none. Specifically, where the HEA requirements mention “students of all faiths”, Atheist Ireland will also seek to ensure that students of no faith are not disadvantaged in the provision of services by State-funded third level colleges.