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File image of president Michael D Higgins. PA

President says schools should teach ‘sexuality in fullest sense’

Earlier this week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it ‘makes sense’ to teach kids about transgender people.

PRESIDENT MICHEAL D Higgins has appeared to weigh in on the debate surrounding an updated school curriculum.

In a statement from the president last night marking International Women’s Day, Higgins said: “There is also the need for the appropriate dissemination of basic information regarding sexuality in the fullest sense, by those responsible for providing education. 

“The requirement for respect to be shown, and the right for it to be experienced, should be available to all.  It is necessary that it be taught, encouraged, and its absence sanctioned.”

His comments follows remarks from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that it “makes sense” to teach kids about transgender people.

Speaking on Monday, the Taoiseach gave his backing to offering education to primary level children about transgender people, saying that the purpose of education was to both prepare children for life and to teach them about the world.

A revised Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum is being drawn up by the Government, with it expected to be rolled out in this September when the new school year begins.

The SPHE curriculum has not been significantly updated in decades, with the Government seeking to modernise the subject.

On Tuesday, Education Minister Norma Foley said any decision on what may appear on an updated school curriculum would come after “very significant public consultation”, which is yet to take place.

The Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPSMA) has said that teaching primary children “what it means to be transgender would require to teach something about which there is neither a scientific nor social consensus to highly impressionable young children”.

The Irish Muslim Council has since came out in support the position of the CPSMA and said: “It is not appropriate to teach primary school children such a complex and contested topic.”

LGBTQ+ support organisation Belong To said it was “deeply disappointed” by comments made by the CPSMA.

Elsewhere in his International Women’s Day remarks, president Higgins said “any reflection on the COVID period must address that fact [that women suffered disproportionately during the COVID-19 pandemic]”.

He also noted that “calls to Gardaí regarding domestic violence increased by 25% during lockdowns, while calls to the Women’s Aid helpline increased by over 40%”.

“These are central issues which must be looked at in any review of the COVID experience,” Higgins added.