A new law prohibiting over-subscribed schools from discriminating in the area of school admissions on the basis of religion has been passed.

The Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill 2016 has passed all stages in the Oireachtas tonight.

Under the new legislation, over-subscribed primary schools will not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion, and minority religions will be offered more protection.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton thanked TDs and senators for their co-operation in getting the bill passed.

He said that it had taken a long time but a number of valuable amendments had been made to it.

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Minister Bruton cited amendments to religion in the context of admissions policy; the provision that children with special needs are accommodated in schools or that schools will open special needs units where needed; and access to gaelscoileanna.

He said: "It will make a significant to the modernisation of our schools."

Fianna Fáil education spokesperson Thomas Byrne said the bill had been "knocking around for years".

He complimented the minister for bringing consensus together and taking suggestions from the opposition in bringing about a "genuinely collaborative effort in getting the bill passed".

Mr Byrne said there was no fear of the bill in Catholic schools, where many of them had already been moving away from a baptism.

He spoke of the need for "an unrelenting call for resources" and said the minister's target of 400 new multi-denominational schools "needs to be ramped up massively".

More than 40 amendments made in the Seanad were debated by TDs when the bill returned to the Dáil this evening, before it was finally passed.

The bill will now be sent to President Michael D Higgins to sign it into law.