Ireland’s ‘Catholics first’ school enrolment makes dads like me despair – article by Paddy Monahan in last Thursday’s Guardian

The Irish state is pushing parents to the brink of despair with its religion-based school enrolment laws. I can vouch for this because I am one of them. The birth of my beautiful boy Cormac back in March was a time of unbridled joy, but I learned shortly afterwards that our local state primary school is oversubscribed. Since then, because he is not baptised, the draining uncertainty as to where he might eventually be accepted has grown by the day, along with my understanding of the arcane world of school enrolment in Ireland.

Irish law allows state-funded schools to turn away children and discriminate in enrolment on the basis of religion. Section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act 2000 states that schools operated by religious institutions can favour children of their own denomination in enrolment – despite the fact they are entirely funded by taxpayers. In Ireland, about 90% of primary schools are controlled by the Catholic church (most of the remainder are under the patronage of other religious institutions), so this can fairly and accurately be called the “Catholics first” law – though in my experience most Catholics, including my close friends and relatives, consider it repugnant.