Cannon backs Bruton in religious opt-out directive

Minister Ciaran Cannon has voiced his support for Minister Richard Bruton`s directive for students who opt out of religious instruction in State-run secondary schools to be timetabled for other subjects.

The Minister for the Diaspora and International Development was speaking following a letter from the Irish bishops requesting that Minister Bruton withdraw the directive, which the bishops feel will give an unfair advantage to students who are allowed to receive extra classes in examinable subjects.

“While I respect the position of the Irish hierarchy and recognise that they are fully entitled to express their view, I support my colleague Minister Bruton in his Department’s directive to provide alternative timetabled tuition for those who do not wish to receive religious instruction,” he said.

“Up until now, students who did not wish to participate in religious instruction were obliged to sit at the back of a class in private study or were sent to a school’s study-hall. It seems to me that this too could be argued to have given these students an unfair advantage.“

“Furthermore, while it was once taken for granted that student populations were predominantly Catholic, we now live in a different Ireland. In this changing context, the right not to attend religious instruction must be given effect through changed practices,” added Minister Cannon.

“It is perfectly logical that this changed practice would encapsulate alternative tuition aimed at accommodating a student’s own preferences in consultation with school authorities.”

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