Michael D Higgins backs teaching of “sexuality in the fullest sense” in Irish schools

"It is necessary that it be taught, encouraged, and its absence sanctioned."

President Michael D Higgins smiling at a podium.
Image: Twitter: @PresidentIRL

As part of a statement published on International Women’s Day, March 8, President Michael D Higgins voiced his support for providing appropriate and comprehensive teachings on sexuality issues in Irish schools. The comments come as debates continue to surface surrounding the contents of the new Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) curriculum, which is currently being revised for both primary and second-level students.

While the President rarely weighs in on government policy matters, in his message, he stressed the need “for the appropriate dissemination of basic information regarding sexuality in the fullest sense, by those responsible for providing education”.

“The requirement for respect to be shown, and the right for it to be experienced, should be available to all. It is necessary that it be taught, encouraged, and its absence sanctioned,” he continued.

In the statement, President Higgins also addressed the disproportionate suffering of women during the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighting, in particular, an escalation in domestic violence.

Furthermore, he expressed his concern over so many public spaces becoming “characterised by aggression and misogyny” and said that “The absence of regulation and accountability in relation to social media continues to have a particularly negative effect”.

Michael D Higgins’ support for a more inclusive syllabus in schools echoes the sentiments of other leading figures in Ireland, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman.

Earlier this week, in response to the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA) expressing its opposition to providing education on transgender issues, Varadkar said: “I think the purpose of the education system is to prepare children for life and to teach them about the world. Trans people exist. They have always existed and I think it makes more sense in schools to just inform children about the world around them.”

Similarly, in January, O’Gorman said that students at all levels should “have an understanding of the diversity of our society,” adding that they should “absolutely” be taught more about what it means to be transgender.

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