A group of Labour TDs and senators are proposing a bill to amend the current Employment Equality Act.
Why is this important? Because under our current law, any religious grouping can sack one of its employees if it considers that person’s lifestyle unsuitable. And since the clergy control so much of Ireland’s educational and healthcare infrastructure, it means that any disapproving priest, bishop or nun can chooose to sack a nurse, teacher or doctor on a whim, if they happen to be living with another person while unmarried, or if they happen to have a child born outside marriage, or if they happen to be gay.
That’s modern Ireland for you, the Ireland that pretends it has thrown off the attitudes that gave us the Magdalene Laundries.
Perhaps you thought this law dated back to Victorian times? Think again. It was passed in 1999 by Ahern and his cronies.
I wrote about this some time back, and I have little to add to what was written then, so why not just repeat that post here?
Did you know that in this country, Ireland, it’s perfectly legal for a clergyman to sack a State-funded teacher, nurse, doctor, or even a janitor in a church-controlled school or hospital if they decide that something about the person undermines the religious ethos of the institution?
It could be something as simple as living with another person while unmarried, or having a child outside marriage. It could be because the teacher, nurse or doctor doesn’t hold approved religious views, or, for example, abandons the Catholic church in protest at the behaviour of the clergy in raping children or covering up that crime. It could be for writing to a newspaper.
Any of these things could entitle somebody like the discredited Bishop Murray, or any of his colleagues or proxies to sack you, even though your salary and all running costs of the establishment are paid for by the exchequer.
That’s because of an exemption in our employment law, which is worth quoting in full:
37.—(1) A religious, educational or medical institution which is under the direction or control of a body established for religious purposes or whose objectives include the provision of services in an environment which promotes certain religious values shall not be taken to discriminate against a person for the purposes of this Part or Part II if—
(a) it gives more favourable treatment, on the religion ground, to an employee or a prospective employee over that person where it is reasonable to do so in order to maintain the religious ethos of the institution, or
(b) it takes action which is reasonably necessary to prevent an employee or a prospective employee from undermining the religious ethos of the institution.
See that? Under the direction or control of a body established for religious purposes. In other words, any church, any religious order, any diocese.
Look at section (b). … action which is reasonably necessary to prevent an employee or a prospective employee from undermining the religious ethos of the institution
That means sacking you if they don’t like how you live or what you believe. It’s what happened to Eileen Flynn.
You might be thinking you have recourse to an appeal system, but you do not. This is a specific exclusion from the equality act for the benefit of the Catholic church.
You might be thinking that this law comes from the Dark Ages and it will soon be fixed to bring it into line with modern practice.
Think again. The Minister for Justice who introduced this act was our old friend, John “Expenses” O’Donoghue, and his boss, the Prime Minister of the day was Bertie “Opus Dei” Ahern, the same man who gave €1.3 billion of public money to bail out the clerical child abusers.
They passed it into law in 1999. Isn’t it amazing how these things go round in circles?
Now. Think about that for a while.
While you’re thinking, I’ll just remind you that Bertie agreed to give control of our new State-funded €1 billion national children’s hospital to his former employers, the Sisters of Mercy.