Quinn to act on teacher 'discrimination'


Proposals to end the discrimination of gay and lesbian teachers in schools will be published in the coming weeks, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn told delegates at the Asti conference today.

The secondary teachers union has led a campaign to amend Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act to remove discrimination against gay and lesbian teachers.

“Our programme for Government contains a commitment that we will remove discriminations against gay people, which prevent them from taking up employment as teachers,” Mr Quinn told delegates in Cork.

Fianna Fáil Senator Averil Power published a draft bill last February designed to prevent schools from discriminating against gay, lesbian and bisexual teachers.

Under current equality legislation, schools are allowed to claim that hiring a homosexual, lesbian or bisexual teacher would undermine their religious ethos.

Mr Quinn told delegates that he was working with Senator Power, and with Senators Ivana Bacik and Katherine Zappone, to achieve progress on the issue.

“In order to move quickly to stamp out such discrimination, I am also in contact with Minister Alan Shatter and the Attorney General, and we will publish proposals in the coming weeks.

“This work to remove discrimination will also be underpinned by the Forum on bullying which will take place on May 17th, and which will be supported by a working group on bullying which will initially focus on tackling homophobic bullying.”

A muted protest met the arrival of Mr Quinn at the annual convention. Around 20 protestors held up placards and red cards around the hall. Twelve delegates walked out.

There was heckling when the Minister thanked teachers for handling the cuts with “No fuss. No drama. No headlines. No shutdowns.”

However, he expressed concern that the full scale of Ireland’s economic problems were not yet understood by teachers.

“When I hear appeals at this convention or elsewhere for reversals of budget measures or calls for increased investment in education, it worries me that the gravity of the fiscal crisis is still not fully understood,” he said.

“As you are aware, almost 80 per cent of the current budget in education is allocated to pay and pensions. This Government has protected education as much as it can,” he warned.

There were vocal objections to Mr Quinn's call for a Yes vote in the upcoming referendum on the European Fiscal Compact Treaty. In response to heckles from the crowd, the Minister said that there would be "no
second time" for the referendum. One delegate accused the Minister of using the convention as a pro-referendum platform.

On the subject of curriculum reform, the Minister gave assurances that the Junior Cycle reform programmes would be properly resourced. “I can assure you that I will prioritise this to the best of my ability and despite the crisis in our public finances. I intend to find sufficient resources for Junior Cycle reform,” he said.

He went on to flag reform of the senior cycle and invited input from teachers in the process. The Minister called on all the education partners to consider the recommendations of the Forum on Patronage,
published today.

“At second level, the process of decision-making in relation to the patronage of many of the new schools that are to be established in 2013 and 2014 is nearing conclusion. I plan to announce the patronage of the new schools within the next two months,” he said.