Over 300 members of campaign group Uplift have urged Minister for Education Norma Foley to prioritise reform of the Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum.
In a statement, Uplift campaigner Layla Wade said: “Proper sex education is one of the real ways we can help make our communities safer for us all. Minister Norma Foley is dragging her heels on an issue that impacts the daily lives of young people we know and love.”
Uplift is a campaign group in Ireland with over 338,000 members. Among its main causes are, according to group’s website, “a thriving environment”, “transparent democracy”, “equality”, and “social and economic justice”.
Wade said that hundreds of members of the group had contacted Foley directly to encourage her to expedite RSE reform.
In November the Education (Health, Relationships and Sex Education) Bill was introduced to the Dáil by Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon, seeking to ensure the provision of a comprehensive, “fact-based” sex education curriculum in all state-funded schools.
Minister Foley affirmed that the Government did not oppose the bill, but called for a nine-month delay “to allow time for work underway by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment [NCCA] to be advanced.”
The minister emphasised that this postponement would allow the legislation to be informed by the NCCA’s ongoing research.
The NCCA completed a review of the RSE programme in December 2019 at the request of then-Minister for Education Richard Bruton, but Uplift says that Minister Foley has delayed further reading until September 2022.
Recent weeks have seen renewed public discussion around the topic of male violence towards women and the extent to which misogyny pervades Irish culture. The murder of Ashling Murphy in January prompted many women to come forward with stories of violence and harassment, while the past week alone has seen three high-profile assaults on women in Cork, Kilkenny, and Dublin.
A recent survey of sexual violence on college campuses also found that more than a third of female students had experienced rape.
Wade continued: “When healthy conversations about sex and relationships are shunned and shamed away, it becomes a lightning rod for sexual violence
Another Uplift campaigner who wasn’t named said: “As a community we believe that a holistic approach is vital when it comes to relationship and sex education.”