My family have experienced a protracted and obfuscated journey while opting out at school. The only option for mainstream schooling was the local national school which is under religious ethos. My eldest child found the shift to a religious environment jarring, particularly the concepts of hell and sin which had been previously unknown to him.
Being deemed different can be hard at any age but particularly so in childhood. Every day I have a genuine fear that my children will come home having been made to “feel” different because of religion, where I will have to help them understand that they are not different. How is this even a reality in 2023 in Ireland, in a public national school funded by the taxpayer? Why is this happening to my child?
I never wanted or envisaged that my children would gain a personal experience and understanding of what discrimination is when I sent them to school, but this is what has happened. Not every child has gained this firsthand experience, not every child has got the memory but my children do.
There continues to be a failure to uphold constitutional provisions guaranteeing the right of my children to attend school without forced religious instruction and my children face daily teachings that conflict with our family’s conscience and lawful preference. Any parent will do whatever they have to do to stand up for their child, to fight for their child’s rights, to show their child that “You matter. You are entitled to be treated equally”.
As a parent, I’ve been excluded, scolded, shunned and shamed by the principal, even other parents. But I can take it, it’s the children who it is hardest on.
Eileen Kelly McCarthy