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Fianna Fáil proposes bill to protect rights of gay teachers

The bill is an amendment to the Employment Equality Act and is being driven by Senator Averil Power.

Averil Power is the Fianna Fáil Seanad spokesperson on Education and Skills
Averil Power is the Fianna Fáil Seanad spokesperson on Education and Skills
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

FIANNA FÁIL HAS called on the government to legislate for the protection of lesbian, gay, and bisexual teachers against discrimination by publishing details of a bill today.

The bill (which can be viewed here) makes amendments to the Employment Equality Act and would mean that schools would not be able to discriminate against teachers who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

As it stands, the current law allows schools to claim that hiring a gay teacher would undermine their religious ethos. Fianna Fáil claims that while the programme for government commits to changing this law, no action has being taken to date.

“Over 90 per cent of Irish primary schools are under Catholic management. Such schools could be entitled to refuse to hire a gay or lesbian teacher or principal,” Fianna Fáil senator Averil Power claimed.

“Many teachers therefore feel compelled to hide their sexual orientation from their colleagues and pretend to be someone they are not. Our bill would tackle this injustice and prohibit discrimination against LGB teachers.”

If the bill is passed it would allow for schools to continue to insist that staff members demonstrate respect towards their ethos and not seek to undermine it. But it would not allow them to treat staff or potential staff differently because of their sexual orientation or martial or civil status.

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Cathal O’Riada, a primary school principal and the Chair of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Group, said that removing the ability for schools to discriminate would be an “enormous and immediate relief” for LGB teachers.

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) also welcomed the move by Fianna Fáil saying that gay and lesbian teachers have “lived in fear for their jobs and their prospects within their employment” under the current legislation.

“This legislation is another key initiative to ensure that LGB people can live open and happy lives, free from discrimination,” Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin added.

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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