State funding for Spun Out article on threesomes not ‘appropriate’, says Reilly

HSE asks group to consider ‘tone’ of article

Minister for Health James Reilly has said the HSE would be reviewing SpunOut. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Minister for Health James Reilly has said the HSE would be reviewing SpunOut. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Mon, Mar 25, 2013, 17:05

State funding for a mental health organisation’s website for young people which posted an article on “threesomes” is not appropriate, Minister for Health James Reilly has said.

The HSE, which gives Spun Out €124,000 annually, said today it had asked the group “ to consider the tone and appropriateness of the article in question”.

The article has been on the Spunout.ie website for a number of years but came to light over the weekend. It gives advice on use of contraception, adding “threesomes can involve any combination of guys and gals”.

“I don’t think that’s an appropriate use of public money,” Mr Reilly said.

“From my personal point of view as a doctor as well as a politician I just think this is not the appropriate sort of information that the State should be putting out there,” he added.

Spun Out spokesman Ian Power said the article provided responsible information to young people. “If you Google ‘threesomes’, what other websites are people going to be directed to? We’re not saying every young person is engaged in this but we do need to have references to it that deals with it responsibly,” he said.

The article has since been edited to remove “outdated language” after advice was sought from young people working with the organisation, but the item would remain on the website, Mr Power said.

The group dealt with depression, self-harm and suicide and it was wrong for young people to be judged on their sexual activity, he said.

SpunOut’s website attracted 12 times as much traffic as it normally would over the weekend, he added. The group had received support from young people, their parents and a donation of €500 in recent days, he said.

Michelle Mulherin, Fine Gael TD for Mayo, said she questioned public money going towards a website with such content when there were waiting lists for young people accessing mental health services and orthodontic treatment. She said she also questioned the HSE’s sexual education policy.

“Is this a priority for funding?” she asked.

“It is not very helpful to be encouraging anyone to objectify another human being,” she added.

SpunOut said it also received €220,000 from Atlantic Philanthropies, a foundation backed by US businessman Chuck Feeney, and smaller donors. The group’s funding is reviewed each year by the HSE and Atlantic Philanthropies.

“We are doing exactly what they are funding us for. Research shows that when young people have more detailed information they are more likely to wait until they are older to have sex, that they have safer sex and teenaged pregnancies are less likely,” he added.

A new version of the article has taken out references to words like “shenanigans” and “spiced up”, said Mr Power.

“[Threesomes] often consist of a couple experimenting with another person outside of their relationship. Some people find threesomes to be enjoyable, for others it is an uncomfortable or upsetting experience,” it adds.