The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. The constitution asserts “the State shall not … make any discrimination on the ground of religious belief, profession or status.”
The constitution prohibits promotion of one religious group over another, as well as discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. The government does not restrict the teaching or practice of any faith. There is no state religion.
The constitution makes blasphemy a punishable offense, although there has been only one prosecution for blasphemy since 1855. The law makes it an offense to utter or publish material that is “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion” when the intent and result is “outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion.”
There is no legal requirement for religious groups to register with the government, nor is there any formal mechanism for government recognition of a religious group.
The government permits, but does not require, religious instruction in public schools. Most public and private primary and secondary schools are religiously based. At the primary level, 90 percent of schools are Catholic, 6 percent Church of Ireland, 2 percent multidenominational, and 1 percent other religious groups. Schools’ boards of management are governed partially by trustees who are members of religious groups. Although religious instruction is an integral part of the curriculum of most schools, parents may exempt their children from such instruction. Under the constitution, the Department of Education provides equal funding to all public schools.
Publicly funded schools run by religious groups are permitted to refuse admission to a student not of that religious group if the school can prove the refusal is essential to the maintenance of the “ethos” of the school. However, there were no reports of any children being refused admission to any school for this reason. By law, a religious school may select its staff based on their religious beliefs.
The government is a member of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Saint Patrick’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Christmas, and Saint Stephen’s Day.