Ireland scraps religious selection in Catholic primary school admissions

5 October, 2018

Admission policies in Catholic primary schools in the Republic of Ireland will no longer be able to select students on the basis of a child’s religion, in a major decision announced by Ireland’s Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, this week.

The changes remove religion as a factor in admission in 19 out of every 20 schools, in a move that has been welcomed by Humanists UK. It leaves only the small minority of religious schools that are not Catholic as able to religiously select.

Known as the ‘baptism barrier’, the policy, until now, has forced parents to have their children baptised to help ensure that the student is secured a place at oversubscribed primary schools.

Welcoming the Irish decision, Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:

‘This decision by Ireland will lead to greater fairness for families and is one that we therefore welcome. Unfortunately it is in stark contrast to recent moves by the UK Government in England, which plans instead to increase such selection. Such proposals are grossly unfair and discriminatory – families should not face the prospect of their child being refused admittance to their local school based on religion.

‘The UK Government should also be committing to reducing religious discrimination in school admissions policies rather than widening inequality and discrimination.’

A 2012 poll found that 73% of the public are overwhelmingly against admission policies which discriminate on the basis of religion.

Humanists UK has long campaigned against the state funding of religious schools and will be writing to the UK Government about Ireland’s move.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or on 020 3675 0959.

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At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.