Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle: Sex education in schools must be free from religious influence

Pringle: Sex education in schools must be free from religious influence

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said it’s time to acknowledge the country is multicultural and multi-denominational, as he supported a bill calling for sex education in schools to be fact-based and free from religious influence.

Deputy Pringle said: “We currently have a school system geared around a religious ethos that, at best, caters to the religious beliefs of a portion of the school population. At worst, and in reality, it alienates a considerable portion of those children and families who are non-practicing or of a different faith.

“Non-denominational families and families of other faiths have always had to ensure that any religious education pertaining to their own faith system was received outside of school. Why is it that children of Catholic faith cannot also receive their religious education in a similar manner, at home and within the structures of their church?” he asked.

The deputy addressed the Dáil today to support the Social Democrats’ Education (Health, Relationships and Sex Education) Bill 2021.

Deputy Pringle said: “The time has come to acknowledge that Ireland is a multicultural and multi-denominational state. Our strengths are found in our inclusion and our diversity. Removing the Catholic ethos from our schools does not stop families from encouraging and continuing with a valued theological education outside of shared school time.

“Removing the Catholic ethos from our schools will allow all children of all faiths to feel that faith is a personal aspect of a person. One that should be treated with kindness, respect and equality,” he said.

The deputy noted the growing global problem of sexual abuse and assault occurring, “not only in dark alleys at nighttime, but online, within relationships and between members of shared communities. A large part of this is due to a lack of education with regards to important issues such as seeking and understanding consent, and creating and respecting boundaries around body autonomy.”

In addition, the deputy said, we have an ethos in this country that has told us, generation after generation, that sex is shameful.

He recalled Tuesday night’s debate on Mother and Baby Homes, saying, “The position that religion has held in the State has led to all of that, and that’s what this should be about breaking down.”

Deputy Pringle said: “It is vital, in order to show a true understanding of the State and Church’s role in the systemic abuse carried out against our women and children, that the Government admit to the fact that painting sex as a shameful act leaves no scope for a meaningful understanding and education of what is, frankly, a natural part of adult life.”

He said: “Why not place some trust and hope in future generations, that by providing fact-based, person-centred and empathetic sex education, we can help develop a culture that is based on mutual respect, boundaries and care for one another,” he said.