Posted by The Reluctant Emigrant—Denise Hession in Features.

It’s endearing to watch the news and late night talk shows and hear just how concerned Irish people are about being inclusive to all religions in Catholic schools across Ireland. A hard core disgruntled group of do-gooders speaking out for those that fail to get into our national schools which are of course primarily Catholic schools, across Ireland, speaking out for the unheard Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and of course all the Catholic Irish people across Ireland that don’t want to raise and educate their child within Catholic confines.

The vast majority of Irish national schools are Catholic but moreover and the real issue is that these schools whilst Catholic led are government funded. It is reported that people applying for these already pretty oversubscribed schools are being discriminated against on the basis of their religion and don’t get accepted. It is also reported that there are Catholic children on the waiting list, however the campaigners for these don’t seem to make as much noise.

As I’m unsure of the exact enrolment acceptance procedure in Irish national schools I will assume that it’s not a strict first come first served basis. Instead I would assume that there is a waiting ‘pool’ as opposed to list and as places arise, there are offered on the basis of suitability, bear in mind here all the time that national schools, promote prayer, holy communion, confirmation, confession and teach about the ways of Jesus, daily. Now how is it so wrong to select the most suitable candidate for such limited places and by the way, how would Ahmed feel if he’s in school every day, colouring pictures out in the hall while his classmates, Padraic and Ruairi are in class putting actions to the our Father.

Over the past 6 years, apart from Irish schools, my children have attended English, Emirati, Dutch and American institutions. In all of the above there is a preference towards the schools nationality. In all of the above, the schools were non-denominational and it was to be expected that one either imply or impose their religious beliefs on the school nor seek to gain any religious enhancement from the school. In each case there were other options, those schools had a religious beliefs, the main criteria for entering these schools are that you are of the same belief. Thus we would not be accepted even if we wanted to go the Christian or Hindu school. Although I did tinker with the idea of faking being a Christian, felt it was an easier one to pull off than Hinduism.

So here we are, Irish, living in Qatar and while the Qatari schools might have better facilities, we would never be accepted not only because we’re not Muslim but also because we’re not Qatari, rich or related to the Sheikh, try that for discrimination! And guess what there’s no Qatari out there campaigning for the rights of the poor Catholic Irish kids. The reality is, why would I want to send my kids there anyway, to learn the Koran? To learn the teachings of Allah? Or to sit outside while his mates, Muhammad and Ahmed do so?

As our applications for government schools are not entertained in Qatar, our remaining choices are European schools, but given that we don’t speak Spanish, French, German, they are also ruled out. This leaves British, American and Australian schools. The American school in Doha is harder to get into than heaven and harder to fund than a cocaine habit in Manhattan. The Australian school is full of Australians.

So our option by default is the British school, British curriculum, Qatari owned so more of a business model rather than a natural ethos. In this school we are readily accepted, if there are places, after all those who have British passports and if management wish. Management also make it clear that all refusals are non-negotiable and they will refuse point blank to enter into discussion regarding same refusal.

Ireland needs to toughen up a bit, own their religion and position and rather than strive to change the basis of standard primary school teaching in Ireland for minority groups, focus instead on providing alternatives to those that want alternatives, surely as everything has a right to change, some things have a right to stay the same.