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These teachers worry that a Yes vote could mean teaching 4-year-olds about the word 'gay'

A new group, Teachers for No, launched outside Leinster House today.

Teachers for No outside Leinster House today
Teachers for No outside Leinster House today
Image: Hugh O'Connell/TheJournal.ie

A GROUP OF teachers have come together to advocate for a No vote in next week’s same-sex marriage referendum, arguing the proposed constitutional amendment will have “serious consequences” for their profession.

The group, calling itself Teachers for No or Educators for Conscience, includes teachers, parents and academics. Its spokesperson, Kevin Leavy, said today that “up to a hundred people have communicated to me their concerns” adding they are all teachers.

“As teachers, our fear is that for example, a teacher who gives preferential treatment to a view of marriage as between a man and woman over a same sex marriage will be seen to be discriminating,” he said at a press event outside Leinster House.

The group is also particularly concerned about the way the teaching of sex education may change with the passage of the referendum.

Dr John Murray, a third level teacher and member of the IONA Institute, said that a lot of people are afraid to say they’ll vote No in the referendum.

https://vine.co/v/eKr1jinXEHB

He said the teachers’ union, INTO, has sent a proposed programme to primary schools containing a glossary of class appropriate explanations for words like ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, ‘transgender’ and ‘bisexual’.

Starting with four or five year olds, teachers could be expected to be explaining the meaning of ‘lesbian’, ‘gay’, ‘bisexual’, ‘transgender’ and so on.

He said that while this was just a proposal, the group is concerned that if the referendum passes there would be increased pressure on teachers to “have to teach stuff like this”.

“We would think that if the referendum passes you would have an increased pressure for that, because you have an increased pressure because of a redefinition of family and marriage,” he said.

Murray said teachers are afraid to say they’re against the referendum passing as they believe it will make them stand out as “not being not in favour of inclusion or to be in someway homophobic”.

So there is a culture of silence around the country. We’ve seen it with the posters being taken down and in a sense this is also affecting us in the education area as well. So we’re very concerned about this.

Teachers for No 1 Joe Flanagan outside Leinster House this afternoon Source: Hugh O'Connell/TheJournal.ie

Joe Flanagan, a deputy principal who teaches religions, drew comparison with the recent controversial changes to the junior certificate syllabus, saying there had not been proper consultation with teachers.

“You can see how that has unnerved teachers up and down the country – a certain proportion of teachers – because they feel this was foisted on them before it was properly explained,” he said.

He said there has been “no discussion whatsoever with the teaching profession” about the implications of the referendum being passed.

“This is a major redefinition of the nature of marriage for everybody and it has to be thought about very, very carefully and as educators we feel it would be dishonest if we weren’t standing up for the right of our parents, [and that] the ethos of our schools would be respected.”

Asked about the group’s funding, Murray quipped: “If Atlantic Philanthropies want to fund us, we’re open to several million if they wish to do so.”

Exclusive: Enda is the latest to star in a marriage referendum video…

Read: Two more TDs have refused to remove their Yes Equality pins in Leinster House

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Hugh O'Connell

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