Article 42 of the Irish Constitution has been in the crosshairs of the forces intent on shaping Ireland into a ‘leftist’ society based on Marxist principles for some time. Already we have seen Constitutional Amendments allowing ‘same-sex-marriage’ by changing the very meaning of the word ‘marriage’ as it has been used since the dawn of human civilization. The Repeal of the 8th Amendment saw the State’s unborn fellow-citizens effectively declared outlaws, in the original sense of the word, that is: ‘being placed outside the protection of the Law’ (as they explicitly had been under the 8th Amendment). Along with many other changes to the Constitution, Ireland is being actively reshaped as a society. It is true that Constitutional change alone does not bring this about, it can only be achieved through a corresponding societal change as well. But there are indeed many ways in which Irish society is being actively changed, principally through the activities of various lobbies and their compliant media spokespeople.
When Enoch Burke’s case hit the headlines, the fact of his being home-schooled was quickly seized on by commentators in the Leftist media. For example, in the Irish Times-owned Irish Examiner, Jennifer Horgan asks rhetorically if “the State failed Enoch Burke when it allowed his parents to homeschool him?” The use of the term ‘allowed’ here is in order to groom the reader into thinking that homeschooling our children is a benevolent licence granted by the State rather than a Constitutional right.
In an article remarkably free of quoted verifiable sources Ms. Horgan points to the parents who objected to the inclusion of certain material in the proposed Department of Education “Relationships and Sexuality Education” program and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) ‘review’ that was conducted recently. At least, this must be the review she is referring to though she gives no actual name to either the ‘report released this week’ or on what grounds she makes the claim that the ‘information’ to be taught is based on ‘objectivity’. As I was one of those many people who made a submission to that report, it is illuminating to consider how it was compiled.
First of all, it was so badly advertised that I – a parent – only found out about it at the last minute when the deadline for submissions was looming. When I looked at the form, it was laid out in a manner that suggested the parents of school children were to be regarded as an afterthought at best, at worst an obstacle, to the proposed program. By way of example, contributors were asked to mark out their interest in the report under one of several headings. These were ‘Teacher / Student / Other’! It is very telling that there was no specific field marked for ‘Parent’!! Instead, they were lumped in with every other conceivable category of interested party.
It is little wonder that no parent I spoke to had even heard of it unless they had their ear very close to the ground, and it is difficult to avoid the impression that this RSE program was intended to be a private project between students who compiled the surveys no doubt under the watchful eye of their idealogue teachers during class time; and introduced with as much stealth as possible. Parents have every right to be concerned in such a scenario. Ms. Horgan refers to the ‘subset of parents’ who objected to the content of the RSE program, but given the stealth and deliberate exclusion of parents from the process the real surprise is that so many of them made submissions objecting in the first place. Had the process been truly open and the parents of the nation’s very schoolchildren who will be the guinea pigs in all this been given a real opportunity to see what was being proposed – shown the actual material etc – and openly invited to share their thoughts, it’s likely the report would find most parents opposed to it. It is in this type of manner that societal change is engineered, and ‘data’ produced to support such change ‘obtained’, that eventually leads to an apparent desire for Constitutional change.
Once again, without giving any actual reference for the claim, Ms. Horgan goes on to say “…International human rights standards are clear on the topic; religious freedom should not entitle a parent to remove a child from objective and impartial information….” Needless to say, she does not illuminate either on how we are to determine whether information is ‘impartial’ or ‘objective’, especially as she appears to demonstrate her own partiality in rejecting the religious perspective.
One document that might be expected to deal with this ‘topic’ is the UN Charter on Human Rights. This document has its flaws in my opinion: such as when it states that everyone has a right to life (Article 3) but then takes away with one hand what it gives with the other by appearing to limit this right from the time of birth only (Article 1 – “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights…”) So presumably a human being first has to make it past those dangerous 9 months right at the very start of their life before they will come under the protection of this much-vaunted Charter. While we are left wondering if this perhaps is ‘the international standards’ Ms. Horgan has in mind, it contradicts her assertion in a number of ways:
Article 18 guarantees freedom of religious thought & practice. This article (along with Article 44.2 in the Irish Constitution) gives Enoch Burke the freedom to exercise his sincerely-held religious beliefs without discrimination.
Article 19 gives us the right to freedom of expression and to hold opinions without interference. It also gives us the right to receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers. Before Ms. Horgan rushes to say this latter sentence gives the Burke children the duty to be informed of issues like transgender etc, a couple of observations are in order:
Firstly, this ‘right’ to information is not without limits. It can be clearly seen that in Law certain types of information is deemed to be contrary to public morality or safety. Anyone accessing information on how to commit certain types of crimes for example, might expect a knock on the door from the police, as has been seen over and over in relation to terrorism. The whole point of Helen McEntee’s ‘hate speech’ Laws is to limit such freedom of ‘information and expression’ on the apparent basis of the public good. Article 30 of the same UN Charter makes this very point. Thus Article 19 does not in practice give us unlimited freedom, and the only question that remains is whether the ‘information’ is considered offensive to public morality or safety – and this is the point on which people will disagree.
Secondly, to present a ‘right to information’ as a ‘duty’ to impose that information on our children, as Ms.Horgan does, is a gross distortion of the spirit of this Article. It removes the principle of freedom of choice and replaces it instead with a tyranny of imposition. The nonsense of it can be quickly demonstrated by claiming that Ms.Horgan’s right to freely access information about religion ought to be transformed into a duty to learn religion! This in fact is very much in keeping with the spirit of the lobby that seeks to impose its values on society at large whilst paying lip service to freedom of conscience – see for example PB4P TD Paul Murphy introduce a Dail Bill to prevent schools from following their own ethos in how they wish to design and present an RSE program, in favour of one dictated by the State.
Thirdly, we must place these ‘rights’ alongside the situation when a child is in the care of its parents until it reaches maturity. Article 26.3 of the UN Charter on Human Rights backs the right of Enoch Burke’s parents to give their children the education they think best: “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children…” The spirit of this Article is echoed by our own Constitutional Article 42.1 & 2 which not only grants this right to parents but adds that such education may be in the school or at home. Not only do parents have a right and duty to pass on the values they see fit to their children, but it is inevitable they do so anyway. Parents who ‘care about the environment’ will pass on this value to their children through their words and actions (such as recycling trash). Do we expect them to also teach their children about scientific studies that appear to show climate change is a natural phenomenon where human activity has negligible effect, in the name of ‘impartiality’? Or for atheist humanist parents to be obliged to bring their children to regular Sunday mass in the name of ‘balance’? Such parents may in fact do so, perhaps in order to provide their children with appropriate responses to such issues, but no one would reasonably seek to impose it as a legal duty.
I have my issues with this UN Charter, chief of which is that it is based on a humanistic concept of where our rights derive from, but that is a story for another day. For the present, it shows that Ms.Horgan’s contention that ‘international standards dictate religion should not entitle a parent to remove a child from ‘objective’ information’ ring very hollow.
Even though the Left are currently trying to get a bill through the Dail which seeks to impose an agenda-driven form of RSE onto the nation’s schools and educators, Ms.Hogan claims the only time the State tried to usurp the role of the parent in Education was in the 1942 attempt of Thomas Derrig TD to force Travellers to register their children at the local Garda station, in order to tackle absenteeism of Traveller children from classrooms. It’s hard to see the point of such a law, as births are supposed to be registered anyway thanks to the 1863 Births Deaths and Marriages Act (still in force). Ms.Hogan knows she is on thin ice here because she might be seen as skirting dangerously close to suggesting Travellers were not taking the education of their children seriously, even in mentioning this historical case. Such a suggestion would be the kiss of death to any leftist journalist – who would risk getting ‘cancelled’. So she is at pains to point out that in this instance, the Constitutional Article 42 acted ‘for the greater good’.
As she puts it “draconian State control of education is dangerous and problematic…” Indeed. Perhaps she could have a word with People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy, Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns etc.
But in her next breath she withdraws such a presumption of innocence from religious communities and minorities in this country, literally asking “But what of Enoch Burke?” Indeed, what of him? Do his religious parents have less right to furrow their own course than the Traveller community? Ms.Horgan thinks so, and to emphasize the point, uses quotation marks to suggest his ‘education’ was not really an education, but an indoctrination. To hammer the point home, she states: “Because a parent passing on a singular world view without any exposure to the beliefs of others is indoctrination, not education, not even “minimum education”. Draconian State control of education it to be positively encouraged – but only when it comes to religious communities!
While I have quoted Ms. Horgan’s article at length, it is because it typifies the often-contradictory and misinformed thinking with which the ideological Left surrounds this subject. These views are reflected in much of our body-politic as well however. We have already seen the efforts of Paul Murphy TD and Holly Cairns TD to find ways to prevent schools from choosing not to teach a particular form of RSE and to make the ‘State’ version mandatory. Recently we had Michael Martin TD opined that homeschooled children were essentially isolated and cut off from any form of socialization.
Mr. Martin appears to have already forgotten that his lockdown of the entire country for almost two years created one of the biggest experiments in homeschooling the country has ever seen. How he can have overlooked this is a mystery, given his personal visit to RTEs ‘homeschool hub’ in 2021. Some children suffered whether because they missed the social aspect of the classroom, or because their parents were not natural teachers or in a position to help them learn. Homeschooling is not for everyone, it is true. But many parents rose remarkably to the challenge and managed to juggle homeschooling with other duties, doing an admirable job that will stand to their children for years to come.
Some typologies of children even flourished during this period, reveling in all the unused-to daily attention they were getting from their parents and the one-on-one teaching. Homeschool certainly suits some typologies of child better than others. Mr.Martin’s lockdown went far beyond simply keeping children schooled at home – all social contact with other children, playdates, meetups in the park, birthday parties and many more, was banned. Apparently the socialization of children took second place when Mr. Martin decided it was for the good. Perhaps it was this kind of ‘social isolation’ he himself presided over that he had in mind in his remarks? It will be years before the full psychological impact of those critical formative two years become fully evident on the psyche of the nation’s children, so Mr. Martin would do well to be very circumspect in what he says in this regard. In his defence, Mr. Martin has rather limited experience of being a classroom teacher, he taught for a short period at St.Kieran’s College in Cork, where I was one of his students, before going on to a fulltime political career.
Alison O’Connor of the Irish Examiner (again, quelle surprise – so much for ‘impartiality!) is another who appears to think homeschooled children see neither sunlight nor other human contact outside their immediate family until they leave home, pale and weak, as adults: “depriving your children of the opportunity to play, to socialise, to make lifelong friends, to prepare them for real life, has never sat easy with me…” Perhaps she, too, has the lockdown in mind?
The fact is, homeschooled children are not ‘deprived of the opportunity to play, socialize, make lifelong friends or be prepared for the real world’. Socialization of children takes place across multiple settings – with relatives, friends, neighbours, through friends of friends, as members of clubs and societies ranging from sport to drama groups and too many more to list here. Thus do children meet fellow children from all walks of life and encounter many different points of view. It beggars belief that voices like Mr. Martin’s and Ms. O’Connors are unaware of this. Ms. O’Connor pretends to acknowledge this yet takes with one hand what she gives with the other, saying: “Still though, they’re a fairly like-minded bunch, aren’t they all the same?” as if homeschooled children only exclusively meet up with like-minded families (and in total contrast to leftist ‘cancel culture’).
While I would like to take the charitable view that it somehow slipped their minds when they penned their articles or made their remarks, the general thrust of their arguments suggests there is something more afoot.
Ms. O’Connor gets down to the meat of the matter when she describes homeschooling as “…it points towards an obsessive need to keep control of your child’s/children’s environment, and to not allow any challenge of the “purity” of the beliefs you wish to instil as a parent, whether that be in the classroom or on the playground…”
Ms. O’Connor objects basically to parents having the freedom to pass on their values to their own children, presenting it instead as ‘an obsessive need for control’ – not at all like the Left’s determination to make RSE mandatory in all schools regardless of the wishes of the nation’s parents and the ethos of the schools.
And what gives parents this freedom? Once again Ms. O’Connor reveals how the irksome Article 42 of the Constitution stands in the way of the Left’s dream of a one-size-fits-all Leftist Marxist dystopia:
“Our Constitution states the primary and natural educator of the child is the family. Article 42 allows parents to provide this education at home…”
Michael Clifford (again, that paragon of ‘impartiality and balance’, the Irish Examiner) repeats most of the same arguments made by his Irish Examiner colleagues. In sum, Enoch Burke’s religious stance is reason to remove all Constitutional right Irish parents have over their own children’s education, because this Constitutional right is only ‘good’ when it produces the results favoured by the Left. Animal Farm is alive and well: four legs good, two legs bad.
So don’t be surprised when this Article is the next up on the Executioner’s block for dismemberment or dismissal. And once it’s gone, the State will force its ideology and teaching methods on your children any way it sees fit, with or without your consent. Everywhere the Left goes, it preaches ‘freedom’ and practices ‘oppression’.
Nick Folley © 30-3-2023
Jennifer Horgan’s article: https://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/people/arid-41057318.html
UN Charter on Human Rights: https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights
Michael Martin visits homeschool hub: https://www.rte.ie/lifestyle/living/2021/0310/1203150-taoiseach-micheal-martin-will-pay-a-visit-to-the-home-school-hub/
Alison O’Connor: https://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/arid-41099956.html
Michael Clifford’s article: https://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/commentanalysis/arid-40955927.html