Press Releases

Press release from The Iona Institute

Labour motion on Catholic civil servants "deeply undemocratic"

January 31, 2012 -  A motion that is to be debated at Labour's national conference in April calling for the screening of senior civil servants dealing with the Catholic Church is "deeply undemocratic", The Iona Institute has said today.

According to a story in today's Irish Independent, a document called the Clontarf Report is to be debated at the conference. This document accuses denominational schools of illegally discriminating against children of other faiths.

In addition, one of its recommendations is that, "All senior official appointments in State bodies which are likely to have to deal with the Catholic Church should be screened to ensure that they will not show inappropriate deference to the Catholic Church. Those who feel that they are 'Catholic first and Irish second' should should have no influence on the control of education."

Responding to this, Iona Institute director, David Quinn said today: "The Clontarf Report is completely mistaken in its assertion that denominational schools are breaking the law when they admit children of their own faith ahead of other children. This is explicity permitted, for example by the Equal Status Act. To pretend otherwise is simply an attempt to bully denominational schools".

He continued: "However, the report's recommendation that senior civil servants should be screened to ensure that do not show 'inappropriate deference to the Catholic Church' is deeply undemocratic and would amount to a witch-hunt against Catholics in that it would single out Catholics from among all other civil servants.

"This recommendation is an echo of the suggestion made in the Dail by Ruairi Quinn in 2009 that some officials in the Department of Education were 'members of secret societies such as the Knights of St. Columbanus and Opus Dei', a suggestion for which he provided no evidence whatever."

David Quinn added: "Why not screen civil servants to ensure they are not unduly deferential towards a given political party, including Labour, or towards some other vested interest? Where would such a 'screening' process stop?"

He concluded: "The fact that this report has been adopted by the Dublin North-Central constituency branch of the Labour party is bad enough. If it is somehow adopted by Labour at its annual conference it would be much worse. Not only should it be defeated, it should be condemned at the conference".