As It Happens

How Ireland's 'baptism barrier' is keeping this boy out of school

Nikky Murphy tried to get her son into nine different state-funded primary schools in Dublin. They all rejected him.
Nicky Murphy was forced to delay the start of 5-year-old Reuben's primary education when he was rejected by nine religious schools. (Nikky Murphy )

The Catholic church has long permeated many aspects of Irish society. More evident these days is the education system, where ninety-six percent of primary schools are run by religious institutions, even whilst being fully funded by the state. 

Nikky Murphy's 5-year-old son Reuben was rejected by nine local schools last year. For the upcoming school year, she has applied to sixteen schools. The rejections have already started to roll in. 

No doubt, if Reuben was baptized, he could attend a school 400 metres from our front door.- Nikky Murphy

But, as she tells As It Happens host Carol Off "No doubt, if Reuben was baptized, he could attend a school 400 metres from our front door."

The reason Reuben keeps being rejected, is the religious school's enrollment policy. They prioritize children according to their religious denomination, with no consideration for where the children live. Because Reuben is non-religious, he is placed at the bottom of the list of applicants. 

Murphy has even considered baptizing Reuben, just to get him into school. She eventually decided it would go against her conscience, but says "I completely understand parents in this dilemma who will carry out pragmatic baptisms just to relieve that pressure." 

For the 2016 school year, Nikky Murphy has put in applications to sixteen primary schools on behalf of her son, Reuben. (Nikyk Murphy )

"There has to be real political will and leadership to make the changes required," says Murphy. During the last general election, she said promises were made to divest fifty per cent of schools to non-religious patrons. Since then, only one school in Dublin has been divested where the wait list is too long. She hopes that with the coming general election, more concrete targets will be set to break down the so-called "Baptism Barrier." 

If Murphy can't find a school for Reuben she says she will consider moving and maybe even leaving the country.


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