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New Catholic school sex education programme not in line with Government policy, says Tánaiste

Róisín Shortall said the transfer of patronage was ‘a snail-paced programme’.

THE GOVERNMENT WILL be providing an update on its plans for sex education in primary schools that is inclusive of LGBTQ relationships, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said. 

Varadkar said the programme for government is very explicit on the issue of providing inclusive and age-appropriate curricula for relationships and sexuality education (RSE), adding that he expects it to be upheld in publicly funded schools. 

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall raised the issue during Leaders Questions this afternoon following the publication of a new RSE program for Catholic primary schools, developed by the Irish Bishops Conference. 

“Tánaiste, teaching children that relationships can be placed in a hierarchy, depending on sexual orientation, should be anathema in any modern republic,” said Shortall.

The RSE developed by the Irish Bishops Conference states that the Church’s teaching that marriage is between man and woman cannot be omitted from lessons. 

The IBC said the material, written by a former principal, “is bright, fun, engaging, interesting and pedagogically sound”. 

It said the feedback it has received so far on the Flourish programme, which is not mandatory, has been “very positive”. 

“Principals, in particular, have really welcomed this resource and know that they and their teachers have the expertise, training and support to use it to good effect in their schools, for the good of their pupils.”

Criticising the program, Shortall said: “We know what that teaching actually is, relationships between men and women are natural, LGBTQ plus relationships are, quote, ‘intrinsically disordered”. 

“That is the Church’s position. Let’s not pretend otherwise,” she said, adding that it is not the view of the state or the public. 

Do we really want LGBTQ plus children in schools, who may be struggling with their sexual orientation to be taught that their relationships are in any way less were they, meaningful, loving, or deserving of respect than their heterosexual peers, because that is the influence of this program.

“Sex education needs to be fact based, and facts do not have an ethos.” 

Varadkar said all schools have to have an RSE policy but that the ethos of the school should never preclude learners from acquiring knowledge about the issues, but it may influence how the content is treated. 

“We need to make a statement on this because the programme for government is very clear and very clear that when it comes to this matter that we have to be inclusive of LGBTI relationships.” 

Shortall also criticised the “snail’s pace” at which the divestment programme is happening, saying it is “untenable” with 90% of primary schools being Catholic.

“As long as the church controls 90% of schools that choice will be absent. This must change and change as a matter of urgency,” said Shortall. 

Varadkar acknowledged that the transfer of patronage has been “very slow” but that it should be done with consent.

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