Sex education Bill passes through Dáil without vote
Fianna Fáil had been expected to oppose legislation but just two TDs sought vote
The Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill was introduced by Solidarity TD Paul Murphy. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.
Legislation which provides for factual objective sex education without regard to a school’s ethos has unexpectedly passed second stage in the Dáil without a vote.
When Leas Cheann Comhairle Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher asked those in favour of a vote to stand just two TDs - Independents Michael Harty and Mattie McGrath - rose.
Fianna Fáil had indicated its opposition to the Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill over concerns about its effect on schools’ ethos and about curriculum issues being set in legislation.
But the party did not support a vote against the legislation. A minimum of 10 TDs must want a vote for one to take place.
The Bill was introduced by Solidarity TD Paul Murphy, who claimed sex education in Ireland was “in the dark ages” and affected by a school’s religious ethos.
The Bill provides for education about consent, contraception, abortion, sexuality and gender issues.
He had expressed concern about the vote as the parties supporting the legislation had 48 TDs while Fianna Fáil and the rural group of Independent TDs had 51. The Government had said it would not oppose the legislation but had not indicated whether it would support a vote.
Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne said during the Dáil debate on Wednesday evening that his party had a “principled objection to this Bill on the basis that Ireland has never legislated in law for a curriculum of any type”.
‘Spirit of schools’
He also expressed concern that changes were being proposed that would have an impact on the “characteristic spirit of schools” and this had been done without consulting education partners.
Mr McGrath said every TD want to see fact-based and responsible sex and relationships education but he believed the recommendations of the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment, which the legislation referred to, went much further.
He also believed that the Bill was a direct threat to the ability of denominational schools to teach their own view of sexuality and intimacy.
Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the curriculum had been set in the late 1990s and “it has now certainly been superseded by a lot of changes”.
He has asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to review all aspects of sex and relationship education in primary and post-primary schools.
The legislation next goes to committee stage but because it is a private member’s Bill it is likely to languish without progress.