Thursday, 29 April 2021
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I would like to join with others in extending congratulations to the Minister for Justice and her husband on the arrival of their new baby and extend very warm wishes to them. The Tánaiste said that people have to see it to be it. There is no doubt that the Minister for Justice has provided a very good example in that regard. We also need to see it from Government in terms of making provision for senior politicians in respect of the provision of supports during pregnancy and the early months of motherhood. We look forward to that, particularly in the context of the findings of the Citizens' Assembly at the weekend. We look forward to early action from the Government in that regard.
A new relationships and sexuality education, RSE, programme for Catholic primary schools was published this week, as the Tánaiste knows. It was developed by the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference. The programme, in its introduction, states that when discussing LGBTQ+ plus issues with children, "the Church's teaching in relation to marriage between a man and a woman cannot be omitted". We know what that teaching is. Relationships between men and women are natural. LGBTQ+ relationships are "intrinsically disordered".
As recently as last month, incredibly, the Vatican reaffirmed that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions because God "cannot bless sin". That is the church's position. Let us not pretend otherwise. However, it is not the State's position or the public's position. We had a marriage equality referendum in this country in 2015 which passed by a huge majority. Same-sex marriage is every bit as valid as a heterosexual marriage.
Teaching children that relationships can be placed in a hierarchy depending on sexual orientation should be an anathema in any modern republic. Do we really want LGBTQ+ children, who may be struggling with their sexual orientation, to be taught in schools that their relationships are in any way less worthy, meaningful, loving or deserving of respect than their heterosexual peers? That is the inference of this programme.
This is an issue that does not just affect children. Speaking at the INTO's annual conference at the start of the month, its vice president Joe McKeown said that up to 4,000 LGBTQ+ teachers are hiding their sexual orientation because they feared their jobs or promotion prospects would be harmed if their school patrons discovered their true identity.
The Tánaiste may say that Catholic schools have an ethos, but sex education needs to be fact-based. Facts do not have an ethos. Can he tell me why, in 2021, RSE for Irish children is being developed by Catholic bishops and not the National Council for Curriculum Assessment? Why has the Minister for Education remained silent on this? What is the Government going to do to ensure pluralism in our schools and that we teach our children mutual respect?