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Section 37 of Employment Equality Act raised at Teachers Conference

April 28th, 2011 · 8 Comments · Equality, Irish Politics, LGBT

The Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn has been making his inaugural speeches to the Teachers Union conferences this week.  Yesterday he spoke at the TUI conference and raised the issue of lesbian and gay teachers and the possible impact of equality legislation protections regarding religious ethos.

Before concluding I want to consider one further issue that I know is of concern to your members.

It has no material cost implications and does not impact on the public finances but it does matter hugely to those concerned.

I am referring to the anxieties of those members of the teaching profession who are concerned that the fact that they may be gay or lesbian could be held against them, either in an explicit or a more subtle manner, by the management of some schools.

While the concern may in part derive from one possible interpretation of certain legal provisions I believe that the real challenge is to change attitudes.

Therefore I am more than happy to have my Department work with your officials and the relevant education partners on developing codes of practice to address this issue.

The President of the TUI in her reply referred to the concerns of TUI members.

TUI is requesting you here today Minister to do something else for equality. It is time now for the government to repeal the draconian Section t37(1) of the Employment Equality Act 1998 which relates to religious schools and institutions
It allows them to discriminate against employees/potential employees on religious grounds to maintain their ethos or to prevent an individual from undermining that ethos TUI is of the view that aspects of a person’s private life might be interpreted as undermining the ethos of a particular institution. In particular, lesbian ,gay and transgender teachers are concerned that in religious run schools including Community & Comprehensive schools that being open about their sexual orientation may be prejudicial to their chances of employment and promotion and may lead to discrimination against them. This type of legislation has no place in a new Ireland please repeal this draconian section of the act.

Today’s Irish Times further reports that the Minister recognised that people may be prevented from entering into civil partnerships becuase of fear of losing their job or being discriminated against.

Mr Quinn said the programme for government agreed between Fine Gael and Labour did “talk about moving in this area”. While he could not anticipate what final action the Government would take on legislation, he did believe it was important to recognise that Ireland was now “more tolerant and inclusive”.

“There is an understandable concern that many people who might contemplate a civil partnership feel that perhaps they can’t do that because of the action that might be taken by patrons of some schools. But I would hope that as we move to complete the Republic and make it pluralist and open and inclusive, that those fears can be allayed.”


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