the right to practice your own culture, language and religion

The Right to Culture, Language and Religion

Your rights under the UNCRC

UNCRC Article 30: It’s your right to practice your own culture, language and religion. Minority and indigenous groups need special protection of this right.

Your rights under Irish law

Under the Official Languages Act 2003, it’s your right to request public documents in Irish. Article 8 in the Constitution explains that Irish is the official language of Ireland.

Under Article 44 in the Constitution, it’s your right to practice any religion in Ireland.

Did you know?

  • According to the 2016 Census in Ireland, the number of people with a religion and with no religion at that time was:
    - Roman Catholic: 3,729,100 (-3.4% from 2011)
    - Church of Ireland: 126,400 (-2.0% from 2011)
    - Muslim: 63,400 (+28.9% from 2011)
    - Orthodox: 62,200 (+37.5% from 2011)
    - Other Christian: 37,400 (-9.1% from 2011)
    - Presbyterian: 24,200 (-1.6% from 2011)
    - Apostolic or Pentecostal: 13,400 (-4.9% from 2011)
    - Other: 97,700 (+39.1% from 2011)
    - No religion: 468,400 (+73.6% from 2011)
    - Not stated: 125,300 (+71.8% from 2011)
  • According to a national study of children in Ireland called Growing Up in Ireland, in 2009 almost half of 9 year olds were involved in organised cultural activities like drama, arts and ballet. More than twice as many girls (65%) as boys (31%) took part in these activities.
  • All state documents, such as laws, bills, application forms and reports must be available and published in Irish and English. Article
  • The Department of Education’s Primary Online Database  said that 47,973 students say that English or Irish is not their first language in 2016.
  • The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI has asked the government for an action plan to make sure that all young people in Ireland have equal access to the arts. They are worried that only families who are well-off are able to send their children to classes like ballet, piano lessons and the like.
  • There are many jobs you can get if you have fluent Irish such as translation jobs, jobs in the media and jobs in the European Commission. For more information, look here.
  • Many young people play traditional and classical music and learn more about our culture through taking part in Feis Ceoil and Comhaltas. In 2017, the Feis Ceoil celebrated its 120th year.
  • Seachtain na Gaeilge is a two week celebration of Ireland’s national language and culture. It ran from  1st-17th  March 2017 with lots of different events that try to encourage people to use  “cúpla focal”
  • Culture Night happens every year in September, all over Ireland. This night celebrates culture, creativity and the arts. Culture Night will take place on 22nd  September 2017 and there are many free events to go to.

Hear your right – read by Béibhinn Nic Ruairí


As Gaelige

Tá sé de cheart agat do chultúr, do theanga agus do reiligiún féin a chleachtadh – nó a roghnú. Bíonn cosaint speisialta an chirt seo ag grúpaí mionlaigh agus dúchasacha.

Éist le do chearta - léite ag Keeva Ní Bhaoill 

What children and young people are saying

  • “I’m a muslim…If someone came along to me and said no, you’re not allowed to practice your religion.. you have to respect mine before you can understand yours. I’d be sad. I’d say, let me practice the religion I want to practice..” – Abiidat (5)

    “The right to my language and to my culture is really important to me Being attached to your culture, I think, if you’re not from Ireland, is really important because, you’d always wonder, ‘Where do I really belong? I love Ireland but I do like to keep the culture going because I love the Philippines as well so, it’s nice to have a difference between the two.”
    – Diane (16)


    “I think if I didn’t have the right to speak my own language, I would feel alienated.
    I would feel completely disconnected from that part of me, from that part of my family. My skin is different, my body is different, my language is different.
    It’s very strange to have to try to explain, but I’d feel very disconnected from my Mam and my Latin American family.”
    – Roisin (16)

    You can hear more from children and young people on the free It’s Your Right iPad app!

  • Three teenagers, two languages and one right. Caoimhe, Keeva and Luke talk to us in English, and Irish about their right to the language and how important it is for them to be multi-lingual and carry on the tradition and culture of the Irish language.

    Four young people from Ballymakenny College in Drogheda talk to us about their lives and their languages. Kristian, Patrycja, Salisa and David speak Slovak, Polish, Thai and Croatian at home. They tell us how important it is to be able to speak their own language, what it means to them and how it makes them feel at home.

Find out more

  • The Yellow Flag Programme – The Yellow Flag Programme promotes inclusion and celebrates diversity in primary and secondary schools
  • Pavee Point- Learn more about Irish Travellers and Roma from Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre.
  • Foras na Gaeilge – Foras na Gaeilge is responsible for promoting the Irish language throughout the island of Ireland.
  • Seachtain na Gaeilge – Find out more about Seachtain na Gaeilge (Irish Language Week), an annual international Irish language festival.
  • The Ark – The Ark is a cultural centre for children aged between 2 and 12 years old.
  • Music Generation – Into music? Take a look at what Music Generation does around the country.
  • Baboró – Baboró is an international arts festival for children, based in Galway.
  • National Association of Youth Drama – There are youth theatres all over the country. Find out more from the National Association of Youth Drama
  • Fighting Words – Learn about the Fighting Words creative writing centre. And read some children’s stories too!
  • Culture Night – Culture night is an annual all-island public event that celebrates culture, creativity and the arts in Ireland.

Explore More – Resource materials for Teachers & Educators

    • UNICEF UK – ‘Rights and Culture’. An activity for children and young people (11-16 years) to explore how different cultures can rank human rights in different ways. In Thinking Rights. What happens when rights seem to conflict? (2009), pp.28-33.
    • EQUITAS – ‘Talyat – Malyat’. An activity for 9-10 year olds to explore the right to practice your own language and culture. In Play It Fair! Toolkit Human Rights Education Toolkit for Children (2009), p.18.
    • Pavee Point – Factsheet on Traveller culture and heritage
    • Irish Traveller Movement – The Yellow Flag Programme is an equality and diversity programme for primary and post-primary schools, with resources provided to support schools’ participation.
    • Equality Authority et al – ‘Create a Calendar of significant Days’. An action for TY students on diversity and respect in relation to religion, including those of different faiths and of no faith. In Grounds for Action. Building a Culture of Equality in our Society (2012), pp.34-35.
    • Council of Europe – ‘A Mosque in Sleepyville’. An activity to support young people to explore the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.