Two TDs clash in Dáil debate about relationships and sexual education
Coppinger says religious groups targeting sex education; Tóibín claims it is ‘massive mistake’ to remove parental choice on values and ethos
Ruth Coppinger: she said that since the repeal of the Eighth Amendment “some right-wing and religious fundamentalist groups are now targeting the area of sex education, and oppose any change or progress in it”
Two TDs on opposite sides of the debate on abortion have clashed again in a Dáil debate about relationships and sexual education (RSE).
Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger claimed this area of education would become a target for certain political forces. She said that since the repeal of the Eighth Amendment “some right-wing and religious fundamentalist groups are now targeting the area of sex education, and oppose any change or progress in it”.
Ms Coppinger claimed they “tend to focus on sex and gender. However, RSE is about healthy relationships, interacting with others, dealing with difficult situations and much more.”
However, Independent TD Peadar Tóibín criticised Ms Coppinger’s comments, and said the Catholic Church “should not determine the ethos of the sex education of all the children in Irish society but neither should Deputy Coppinger”.
The Meath West TD said it would be a “massive mistake to go down the route of uniformity with regard to ethos in sex education” and to remove parental choice with regard to the type of ethos that is taught to children.
“Parents should be able to raise their children within their own values and ethos. Forcing one value system on all parents, a mandatory ethos against the wishes of parents and children, would simply seek to replace the stifling uniformity of the past with the reverse now.”
The two TDs were speaking as the Dáil considered a report by the Oireachtas Education Committee on relationship and sexual education.
Chair of the Oireachtas committee Fiona O’Loughlin said the issue was not about any TD but about “our young people, our children, our students, who need support, guidance and a positive environment in which they can learn about relationships and sexuality in a factual way”.
Ms O’Loughlin said parents should have the right to bring up their children in the ethos and the faith in which they choose to do so. “However, this is not about ethos; it is about health, health education and equipping young people with the skills and confidence they need to navigate this world.”
A Government-commissioned review earlier this year of sex education programmes found they were outdated and involved lessons on “abstinence” and “risks and dangers”. They contained little information about sexual consent, LGBT issues or the positive aspects of relationships.
Sex education was introduced to Irish schools in 1995, and schools are entitled to alter the sex education programme according to their ethos because of laws which protect their characteristic spirit.
Minister for Education Joe McHugh said submissions could be made up to October 25th to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, which was reviewing the RSE programme, and he urged as many people as possible to do so.