The introduction presents the Republic of Ireland as a case study in the international debate on the place of religion in schools and on the relationship between religion, cultural identity and citizenship in state-funded education systems. It focuses on the specificities of the Irish case (a largely denominational and private system) and on the international scope of such a study (Ireland as both a postcolonial and de facto post-imperial country, issues of civic or ethnic citizenship, multicultural or intercultural perspectives etc.). The choice of a democratic perspective based first and foremost on the rights of children as individual human beings (and not only as members of families or communities) is explained and justified within the context of previous research on the subject in Ireland and elsewhere. The introduction also offers a more general critical analysis of previous writings on the subject of religion and schools in the Irish State, drawing a distinction between Catholic viewpoints and democratic perspectives and questioning the relevance of distinctions made between local and cosmopolitan academic perspectives.
Keywords: Religion in schools, Cultural identity, Multicultural/intercultural, Civic/ethnic citizenship, Children’s rights, Individual/community, National/international/cosmopolitan, Democratic academic perspective, Catholic viewpoint
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