Belfast Telegraph

Republic of Ireland to remove 'baptism barrier' for admission to schools

By Katherine Donnelly

Two key moves to reduce the Catholic Church's control of education in the Irish Republic will be made within weeks - just as bishops prepare for their biggest celebration in almost 40 years.

Plans by Irish education minister Richard Bruton to remove a cornerstone of Catholic school admission polices - the so-called baptism barrier - are at an advanced stage.

So too are moves to ask parents to decide who should run Catholic primary schools.

The head-on challenge to the foundations of Catholic education comes amid preparations for the visit by Pope Francis in August.

Lifting the 'baptism barrier' requires a change in the law, and Mr Bruton expects to be able to make an announcement shortly on how he proposes to do that, a Dublin Department of Education spokesman said.

The move will raise Church-State tensions in advance of the papal visit and also coincides with a divisive referendum on abortion.

The 'baptism barrier' allows Church-run schools to give priority admission to pupils baptised in their faith - for which they have legal protection under the Equal Status Act.

It has become a source of growing controversy as 90% of primary schools are under Catholic control, although the proportion of the population declaring as Catholic is in sharp decline.

A second initiative represents a further attempt to broaden choice for parents and identify Catholic primary schools that may be handed over to a multi-denominational patron.

Mr Bruton said "supporting the transfer of schools to multi-denominational patrons, in response to the wishes of local families, will be based on cooperation and transparency".

Belfast Telegraph

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