Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Education (Health, Relationships and Sex Education) Bill 2021: Second Stage [Private Members]
Mick Barry (Cork North Central, Solidarity)
It is true that this an extreme example of what can be taught in relationships and sexuality education, RSE. When the INTO reports that just 18% of LGBTQ+ teachers have declared their orientation in their workplace, one gets some idea of the extent to which religious ethos is distorting sex education in our schools. Young people need factual-quality RSE in all of the schools. For this reason I will be supporting this Bill. It is a progressive step forward.
On First Stage, Deputy Gannon made reference to the stumbling block of the religious ethos of schools when he said that it has been a tool of control and power for the Catholic Church. With almost 90% of our primary schools under Catholic patronage, the State is still permitting the Catholic Church to influence how sex education is delivered. This shows the need to separate church and State and that is the real debate we should be having here but let us look at the question of religious ethos.
The Bill that Deputy Boyd Barrett mentioned that was introduced by former Deputy Ruth Coppinger of the Solidarity Party, namely. the Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill, tackled this issue head-on but was blocked by the Government by way of a money message. Unfortunately, the Bill before us is silent on the issue of the need to remove religious ethos as a factor in how sex education is taught in a school. That is an important point but we will nonetheless vote for this Bill because it is progressive, is a step forward and we will tease those points out on Committee Stage.
We need also to raise on Committee Stage the need for the Solidarity Party Bill to come back onto the agenda. The removal of that money message is also an important point. I will leave it at that.