'They aren’t Holy': Dealing with Religious Differences in Irish Primary Schools

Yafa Shanneik

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    Ireland's demographic landscape has changed enormously in recent years. Primary schools however have remained predominantly denominational. The Catholic Church in Ireland owns and manages the majority of primary schools. By taking the example of the First Holy Communion ritual, this chapter examines how the sacrament is regarded not only as a "rite of initiation" into the Catholic Church but also as an initiation into an idealized notion of a white, Catholic, homogeneous Irish identity. It discusses the various educational, religious and consumerist factors that influence the children's understanding of religion and religious practice not only by examining these social practices but also by analyzing the children's own views and participation in the discussion. In addition, it examines how the Catholic school's communities of teachers, priests and parents deal with religious difference as it becomes apparent in the preparations for the sacrament and during its celebration and how the children perceive and respond to the difference. Based on extensive research with 7- to 8-year-olds, this chapter demonstrates the complexity of children's learning (about) and making sense of religions across urban, suburban, town and rural contexts. This complexity is revealed by examining the situatedness of children's religious beliefs and knowledge within Catholic primary schools. This chapter is part of a research project conducted in 2013 and funded by the Irish Research Council, entitled Making Communion: Disappearing and Emerging Forms of Childhood in Ireland. The ethnographic material is based on children's participatory activities, children and adult-level interviews and focus groups.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationReligious Education in a Global-Local World
    EditorsJenny Berglund, Yafa Shanneik, Brian Bocking
    Place of PublicationNew York
    ISBN (Print)978-3-319-32289-6
    Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2016

    Publication series

    NameBoundaries of Religious Freedom: Regulating Religion in Diverse Societies
    ISSN (Print)2214-5281


    • Religious Education
    • Ireland
    • First Communion
    • Primary School
    • Religious Belief


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