Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Education (Health, Relationships and Sex Education) Bill 2021: Second Stage [Private Members]
Michael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
We are forever discussing issues in this Dáil that are never raised with me as issues in my constituency. When it comes to the education of our children, this debate is a prime example of that. We are discussing this Bill instead of discussing the lack of special need assistants and teachers in our classrooms and how will schools fill their oil tanks. Schools have to face those challenges on a daily basis. I am on a school board of management and I know difficult it is to get funding to address these issues. We should be discussing how funding will be secured to fix a school roof where State funding has not been given. Instead, we waste our time discussing the Social Democrats’ agenda seeking that young people and children can access sexual education. The Social Democrats similar to its sister party, the Labour Party, has gone on to attack religion in our schools with a whole load of blah blah blah, as similarly happened during COP26, where it is all talk and has no solutions.
Let me explain the role of the church in many schools. I have been on the board of management of my local school for many years. When that school in Schull catering for a growing population needed an extension and the State did not come up with the funds, the church stepped in and worked with the people of Schull to borrow the money required to build the extension and to build a very successful school. Those of us on the board of management sit around the table on a voluntary basis worrying that each child, regardless of whether they have religion, is treated with respect, whether we can afford to pay for oil to heat the school or whether we will have to fundraise to fix a door or a toilet. Those are the basics and that is what people want us to discuss. Those are the types of issues they ask me to discuss in here. They ask if a special needs assistant could be provided to help their child. The hatred of the church by so many here is disappointing, to say the least, but I will not be one of them.
I pay tribute to every voluntary board of management member in religious-run schools and to every member of staff in these schools who work tirelessly for the good of the children they teach. When the Social Democrats want to bring forward a Bill again, I ask that they try to avoid showing their hatred for the church and focus on the real needs of the children in the schools and on the issues about which parents ring me and other Members every day of the week. My best advice to all of the Social Democrats is to sit on a board of management for a good few years, not just for a year or two, and make a decision on that. That would really educate them on what goes on in the real world in our schools.