Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies

Oral Answers to Questions – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 9th June 2014.

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Photo of Brenda Hale Brenda Hale DUP 2:30 pm, 9th June 2014

1. asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister to assure the House that they will support the abolition of the discriminatory practice of the restriction on non-Catholic teachers being able to teach in maintained schools without a Catholic certificate in religious studies and take steps in OFMDFM to have the restriction removed. (AQT 1221/11-15)

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

This matter lies within the remit of both the Department of Education and the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister.  It has been the subject of considerable debate over many years.  I think that there is a huge responsibility on all the stakeholders to see whether a satisfactory outcome that all sides can live with can be achieved.  I certainly encourage everybody to be involved in a very constructive debate on how to resolve the matter.

Photo of Brenda Hale Brenda Hale DUP

I thank the deputy First Minister for his answer.  In his drive to deliver equality, and given his public statements both outside and inside this House regarding respect for other communities, will he outline how a non-Catholic accesses a certificate of religious education?

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

That is the challenge.  What we are dealing with is the historical nature of education in the North of Ireland going back many decades since the partition of Ireland in the early 1920s.  The Catholic education sector took up the mantle for the education of Catholic children, and as a result, practices were put in place that now, in the context of a society moving forward and evolving, necessitate everybody approaching the issue in a way that does not allow anybody to be open to the accusation of discrimination of any kind.

Photo of Mitchel McLaughlin Mitchel McLaughlin Sinn Féin

Mr Alastair Ross is not in his place, so we will move on.  I call Mrs Sandra Overend.