A mother has welcomed a ruling that her son's primary school discriminated against him by rewarding his classmates with homework passes for participating in a first communion choir ceremony.
She has told RTÉ News that she really hopes the ruling will "change things for children here who are not Catholic".
The Workplace Relations Commission found that Yellow Furze Primary School in County Meath was wrong to incentivise attendance at a Catholic ceremony in such a way, and it awarded €5,000 to the child.
The Commission also found that the school had not responded reasonably to the concerns raised by the child’s mother.
In her submission, the mother said that the initial act of discrimination took place when her son’s class teacher told him that any child who did not participate in the choir for the school’s 2019 communion ceremony would be penalised with homework.
His class was told that children who did take part would receive a homework pass. She said that her son had come home from school upset and crying, and feeling that he had been "singled out".
She told the WRC she believed that he was being punished for not being Catholic.
The school told the Commission that all children from 3rd to 6th class, regardless of religion, were invited and encouraged to take part in singing in the choir for children receiving a sacrament.
It said the school choir traditionally provided the music for the first communion ceremony, which took place on a Sunday.
According to the Commission’s ruling, the school submitted that "all children are to participate in both the practice for the Ceremony and the Ceremony itself". It said the school’s code of behaviour gave a reward - such as a homework pass - for participating in an extra-curricular activity such as this, and that the practice was not discriminatory.
However the WRC rejected this. It said the school did not appreciate how this action had an adverse effect on students who are not Catholic.
It said the child’s parents were "deeply hurt and upset" by the schools treatment of their son, to the point of having removed him from the school.
It found "prima facie evidence of discriminatory treatment on grounds of religion".
Commenting on her motives for taking the case, the mother told RTÉ News: "We really felt that we did not have a choice. We felt that the school had disregarded the fact that we have a different set of beliefs.
"We felt that our child had been singled out and punished for not being a Catholic."
The mother does not want to be identified in order to protect the identity of her son.
She said she hoped that the WRC ruling would change things for atheist children and children of other religions attending Catholic schools.
"They all have an equal right to have their views respected, and they should not be excluded or singled out in any way simply because of their beliefs," she said.
The mother said that the family would "send back" the €5,000 that the WRC has ordered the school to pay.
"We will send it back to the school, because it will be our friends and our neighbours who will be funding it, through school fundraising. We have been vindicated, but we feel that it would be wrong to accept this money," she added.