In October the Convention on the Constitution voted to replace the blasphemy law with a new provision that would make incitement to religious hatred an offense. The government planned to hold a referendum on the change in 2015.
In April a package containing a white substance and anti-Semitic material was mailed to then-Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, who is Jewish. The Garda (national police) investigated the incident and found the white substance to be harmless. Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny labeled the incident a “new low.”
Several state agencies, including the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Garda’s Racial and Intercultural Office (GRIO), enforced equality legislation and worked on behalf of minority religious groups. The GRIO established an official program to train Garda liaison officers who then met and engaged with immigrant communities and minority religious groups on a regular basis.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) renewed calls for the government to pass hate crime legislation after 47 incidents were recorded in the first half of the year under existing statutes. The groups said the country was the only Western democracy without specific hate crime legislation, leaving a “massive gap between the records and the reality” for minority groups. Based on Garda data, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) said there was one anti-Semitic case during the year. In 2013, two anti-Semitic cases were reported.
The government permitted, but did not require, religious instruction in public schools. Although religious instruction was an integral part of the curriculum of most schools, parents could exempt their children from such instruction. Publicly funded schools run by religious groups were permitted to refuse admission to a student not of that religious group if the school could prove the refusal was essential to the maintenance of the “ethos” of the school. There were no reports, however, of any children being refused admission to any school for this reason.
A multi-denominational group called Educate Together operated a network of 68 non-religious primary schools. It opened its first secondary schools during the year.
A school principal who punished a Church of Ireland student for not attending a first communion ceremony with his schoolmates at a local Catholic church was placed on administrative leave and later found guilty of religious discrimination by the Equality Tribunal. The chair of the school’s board of management and the school’s new principal made “an unreserved apology” to the student’s parents regarding the treatment of their son, according to the Equality Tribunal. The tribunal also ordered the school’s board of management to review its policies to ensure compliance with the law.
A January 28 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) held the government liable in a case where the principal of a state-funded Catholic school had abused a nine-year-old student in the 1970s. The minister of education was reviewing the decision to see how it might apply to similar cases. Media commentary said the ruling might force the government to re-examine some aspects of how predominantly religious-based schools were administered.
In August the Garda arrested a man in Dublin for painting anti-Semitic graffiti on a road in Lucan. He was later released, and the case was sent to the prosecutor’s office to consider further action.
The government is a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.