A couple is taking a constitutional case against a Catholic school and the Department of Education in a bid to ensure that children of non-Catholic and non-religious parents can be properly accommodated in the education system.
The couple, Alma Carey-Zuniga and Ken Kiernan, appeared on the Late Late Show on Friday night to discuss their dealings with a Catholic school in Wicklow.
They believed that the school made no proper attempt to accommodate their wishes in respect of their child and in the end they withdrew the child who is now in an Educate Together school more than 20 miles away.
The case, which may also be taken against the Bishop of Ferns in whose diocese the school is located, and the Attorney General, will cite Article 40.3.1 and Article 42 of the Constitution, in addition to Protocol 1, Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Article 40.3.1 says that the State guarantees in its laws to “respect . . . and defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen”..
Article 42 acknowledges that parents are "the primary and natural educator of the child" and that the State “shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State, or to any particular type of school designated by the State”.
Protocol 1, Article 2 of the European Convention says, inter alia, that “the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religions and philosophical convictions”.
The Convention was adopted into Irish law by the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003.
The couple are being assisted with their case by solicitor, Michelle Lee, and barrister and senator, Ivan Bacik.
The couple want the Department of Education to set out guidelines and procedures to deal with the sort of situation they faced.
They say they do not want to take away from Catholic and other denominational schools the right to display religious symbols or to say prayers during the school day.
Ms Carey-Zuniga said: “Catholic schools should be Catholic. This means a right to say prayers during the school day. I want the State to protect my right to send my child to a school that doesn’t include de facto Catholic education.”