Irish Schools Will Now Acknowledge Some People Don’t Believe in God

When Ireland’s school system was set up in the 1800s, it was designed to be multi-denominational. In reality, it ended up being run entirely by one church – the Catholic Church. Over time, smaller denominations created their own schools. Since the 1970s, an independent NGO called Educate Together has created a number of multi-denominational schools.  These changes were slight as the Catholic Church still controls 93 percent of the nearly 3,200 Irish primary schools.

All of them are funded by taxpayers.

In March 2011, the Irish Minister of Education convened a Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector to assess the needs and desires of all interested parties regarding the nation’s primary education. The public meetings and written submissions covered a variety of topics, including opening up new schools, the types of curriculum, and what languages should be included.  Minister Ruairi Quinn has long wanted to make drastic changes to the Irish educational system, the more radical of which was to wrestle control of the country’s primary education from the Catholic Church.

Minister Quinn’s grand plan has yet to be fully realized, but a major change to the primary curriculum will occur in September 2014. Beginning at age 4, children will receive instruction in atheism, agnosticism, and humanism as part of their ethics and belief systems alongside studies of other religions. The courses will be offered as part of the curriculum in the non-denominational schools and be available online and via apps for those who attend other schools.

Educate Together and Atheist Ireland will develop the curriculum, which will be designed to give children an alternate view of the world and an alternative to what Atheist Ireland describes as a “faith formation first” approach to the teaching of religions.

Instead of religious instruction, as taught in the Catholic run schools, the approximately 16,000 students who attend the Educate Together schools have a section called Learn Together which promotes a “philosophy of education in which no child is considered an outsider; which promotes the fullest development of ability irrespective of gender, class or stereotype and which encapsulates this ethos in a democratic partnership uniquely combining the involvement of parents with the professional role of teachers.”

During this section, attention is given to the various traditions the children’s families have, which include religious identifications. There is currently no segment which discusses atheism or its celebrations. This new program will be designed to fill that gap.

The program will be in line with the Toledo Guiding Principles on teaching about religions and beliefs. These principles are based on human rights and the belief that everyone has a right to an education in which information is conveyed in an “objective, critical, and pluralistic manner.” This means, in the case of teaching religion, it strives for awareness and understanding of the differing beliefs, but does not focus on indoctrination, devotion or otherwise promote – or denigrate – a particular tradition.

This is why the segment will not promote, but teach about, atheism as yet another way people make sense of their world.

The Patronage Forum Report was issued in April of this year. The results of the survey showed that parents overwhelmingly wanted more school choices and a more diverse educational experience for their children. They are currently seeking submissions for implementing the recommendations of the Advisory Group.

In the survey, participants were asked what their preferences were in school curriculum.  By an overwhelming majority, the first preference was one that was multi-denominational, like the one offered by Education Together.

Now, with the introduction of the atheism segment, multi-denominational will include those without a deity as well.


Lady Kaira
None None2 years ago


Darryll Green
Darryll Green2 years ago

NEW AGE psycho babble, i noticed that not one christian or Methodist or Lutheran or Baptist was included in this, just goes to make you wonder who they are pushing as their religion

John S.
Past Member 2 years ago

Perhaps they should include anarchy when discussing political systems while they are at it?

Donna Ferguson
Donna F.2 years ago


Cathleen K.
Cathleen K.3 years ago

Holy Catholic Ireland is truly a relic of the past, and really has been for at least a quarter century. It takes time for the law to catch up with the people, though. The scandal has made it possible for government officials to finally do what the younger generation has been wanting for a long time. I remember an Ireland where divorce and birth control were illegal. People went to NI or Britain for contraceptives, as they do now for abortions. That's the next, and last, great battle, and it's coming soon.

For those of you speculating that this will be helpful re The Troubles, they are not about religion, and haven't been for a very long time. They are about power, money and civil rights, though laws in the Republic barring divorce, birth control, abortion, and making public education a subsidiary of the Catholic Church made the thought of reunification unattractive to middle class Protestants who have nothing to do with the fighting, so in that sense, the changes to the legal and institutional structures governing Ireland can help in the long run.

Lynn C.
Lyn n C.3 years ago


Linda McKellar
Past Member 3 years ago

In my nursing experiences I have had many "supernatural" events. People would call in the night and say "My husband was just here, what happened" and I would find them dead...that kind of thing. That does NOT mean I believe in religion or an afterlife but perhaps that there is some form of energy that one can project after or during death. As science says, energy is neither created nor destroyed. I don't know and won't until I die, if then. Why worry, be happy! I certainly don't attribute such things to a bearded dude in the sky. There are just too many ridiculous concepts in religion to believe it and too many avaricious and evil leaders in in religion to deny that it is about power and control.

Linda McKellar
Past Member 3 years ago

I'll probably get flagged by someone for this but there is a saying I find true:

Having a religion is like having a penis. It's nice if you have one but waving it around in public is extremely rude and shoving it down a child's throat is child abuse.

Linda McKellar
Past Member 3 years ago

Very much to the point EMER.
I had friends who emigrated to Canada to get their children away from "the troubles". At school they were asked to do a project about their religion and the kids had to go home and ask what it was. They felt that a GREAT success.
Children should never be indoctrinated before they can comprehend belief systems and decide for themselves.

Berny p.
Berny p.3 years ago