Irish Reactions to Lautsi v Italy

Reaction to Lautsi v Italy, which Máiréad blogged about here yesterday, is beginning here in Ireland.

On Morning Ireland this morning Paddy Agnew reported on the case from Italy (albeit with a mistake: he said the Court found a violation of Articles 2 and 9, whereas the Court actually found a violation of Article 2, Protocol 1 not Article 2 of the Convention (right to life!) but this was clarified through the magic of Twitter after the report! [morning_ireland]). Unfortunately there is also a mistake on the MI website report of the news. The website reports that “EU rules against crucifixes in schools”–the European Court of Human Rights is not, of course, a court of the EU. MI is not alone in this–the extremely widely-read AmericaBlog just published a story entitled “EU Court Bans Crucifix in Italian Schools” and then goes on to talk about the (non-EU) ECtHR…

In the report in today’s Irish Times Paddy Agnew repeats his mistake re: Article 2 (am I just being difficult here?…) but, more interestingly, notes the Italian reaction to the decision. According to Agnew the Italian government “will be appealing” so we assume that there will be a Grand Chamber decision on the matter. He also reports on the anger and outrage of Italian government and the Vatican in relation to the ruling.

Prof. William Schabas also reflects on the decision on his excellent PhD Studies in Human Rights Blog. Schabas writes:

I would expect there is a lot of hand-wringing in Dublin today about this decision. The Irish school system was criticized by the Human Rights Committee last year in its concluding observations on the Irish periodic report (UN Doc. CCPR/C/IRL/CO/3): ‘22. The Committee notes with concern that the vast majority of Ireland’s primary schools are privately run denominational schools that have adopted a religious integrated curriculum thus depriving many parents and children who so wish to have access to secular primary education. (arts. 2, 18, 24, 26). The State party should increase its efforts to ensure that non-denominational primary education is widely available in all regions of the State party, in view of the increasingly diverse and multi-ethnic composition of the population of the State party’.

The core paragraph from the judgment (currently only available in French) is:

‘La Cour estime que l’exposition obligatoire d’un symbole d’une confession donnée dans l’exercice de la fonction publique relativement à des situations spécifiques relevant du contrôle gouvernemental, en particulier dans les salles de classe, restreint le droit des parents d’éduquer leurs enfants selon leurs convictions ainsi que le droit des enfants scolarisés de croire ou de ne pas croire. La Cour considère que cette mesure emporte violation de ces droits car les restrictions sont incompatibles avec le devoir incombant à l’Etat de respecter la neutralité dans l’exercice de la fonction publique, en particulier dans le domaine de l’éducation’

Presumably the implementation of this decision is going to hang quite substantially on the interpretation of an “[]exposition obligatoire d’un symbole d’une confession” (emphasis added). As Antoine Buyse notes this morning on the excellent ECHR Blog, Italian law required the crucifix to be displayed. To the best of my knowledge there is no such mandatory display of religious symbols in public schools in Ireland (and I would be truly shocked if there was). I have to agree with Antoine that a Grand Chamber judgment clarifying the extent to which this is an absolute ban on display of religious symbols would be most welcome in this case.

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