There are currently two different Sex Education proposals in process in the Oireachtas
1) Provisions of Objective Sex Education Bill 2018
Proposals include: equal treatment of LGBTI sexuality; contraception and abortion dealt with on a factual basis to be delivered regardless of the (religious) ethos of a school. This is a Private Members’ Bill going through the Dail sponsored by Solidarity–PBP TDs. The Bill has so far received all-Party support in the Dail and has radical sex education proposals.
i) The next Stage of the Sex Education Bill is Committee Stage at the Select Committee on Education and Skills which comprises 7 TDs chaired by FF TD Fiona O’Loughlin. There is no date set for this as yet.
ii) Amendments may be made by Govt. and opposition TDs at Committee stage, normally the last stage for amendments (though the Govt. can make amendments at the Report Stage).
2) Report of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills on RSE, Jan 2019
This Report has radical sex education proposals including: – LGBTQI relationships and gender identity on an equal basis, education on pornography and abortion, regardless of (religious) ethos of schools. The recommendations of the RSE Report of the Joint Committee (which includes 4 Senators as well as 7 TDs) may be incorporated into the Sex Education Bill, which could delay the holding of the next meeting of Committee Stage on the Bill
There are also the following developments re revision of RSE programmes in schools –
3) The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) review of RSE programmes in schools
The NCCA was asked by the Minister for Education in April 2018 to review RSE programmes in schools and is due to report back to the Minister by the end of June 2019.
4) Research paper on RSE in Primary and Post-Primary Irish Schools, Nov 2018
This research paper provides input to the NCCA RSE review above and proposes: a ‘Holistic Sex Education approach’ with the primary focus on ‘sexuality as a …source of satisfaction and pleasure’ and calls for extreme issues to be included in RSE, such as pornography literacy.
5) Oireachtas Library & Research Service report – Spotlight: School-based relationships and sexuality education (RSE): lessons for policy and practice, Sept 2018 – This informs Oireachtas policy making and uses evidence of ‘good practice guidance for sex education programming in the liberal and morally relativist person-centred tradition’ (p.8).
Possible timing for passing of RSE legislation and introduction of new RSE
The Objective Sex Education Bill could be passed before the Dáil summer recess in mid July
It seems more likely that the Govt. would take on board – 1) the Joint Committee Report on RSE, and 2) the NCCA recommendations on a new RSE curriculum due in June – and incorporate them into a major revision of the Sex Education Bill, or draft a new Govt. sponsored RSE Bill – Sept. 2019 onwards. The legislation could take some time and a major re-drafting of the RSE curriculum would be required, but this could follow after the legislation is passed.
However, if the Objective Sex Education Bill is passed into law, it could provide the enabling legal provisions for the Minister for Education to introduce a radically new RSE curriculum by Ministerial Order, so the Sex Education Bill could be passed before mid-July, though unlikely.
A Constitutional challenge could be taken against an RSE Bill passed into law with radical RSE proposals which override the (religious) ethos of schools.
If a General Election is being held in the autumn, would the Govt. delay these proposals until after the election?
Possible Actions re radical RSE legislation
lobby (write, email, phone, meet) members of Select Committee on Education and Skills
lobby the Minister for Education
lobby all TDs and Senators
Start a major petition, using social media
public demonstrations outside Dept. of Education or the Dáil at the appropriate time
approach Bishops who are patrons of schools to defend against new legislation
If the legislation is passed the first priority is to try and stop or mitigate the legislation – e.g. maintain exemption of schools with Catholic ethos etc. from RSE provisions
Contact details of TDs and Senators are available at – https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/members/