Ireland: Government launches push to tackle homophobia in primary schools

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The Irish government has launched its first resource to help primary school teachers tackle homophobic bullying.

The guide, titled Respect, will be officially launched by Education minister Jan O’Sullivan this evening.

It was created by the Department of Education and Skills, alongside the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation and Ireland’s Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN).

The resource – which is the first of its kind on the Republic of Ireland – encourages teachers to challenge children to think about family, love and gender from an early age.

It says: “Encourage children to try out each other’s games. Always challenge statements such as ‘That’s a girl’s game!’ or ‘That’s a boy colour!’

“The key message is that no game or colour or activity is a boy’s or girl’s game/colour/activity. Everyone can do everything!

Minister Jan O’Sullivan said: “Every primary school classroom has children from a diverse range of backgrounds and family types. Every child needs to feel that they belong and that they are welcomed, respected and valued.

“The Respect resource we are launching today will support the whole primary school community in creating an inclusive and positive school climate, so that all children can flourish to the best of their abilities.”

Sandra Irwin-Gowran of GLEN added: “Bullying is an issue for many children in our schools and for some this can take the form of homophobic or transphobic bullying.

“Encouraging respectful relationships across the school community is key to preventing bullying, particularly identity-based bullying. This guide is the first to support primary teachers in including homophobic and transphobic bullying in their bullying prevention work.”

It is the latest in a string of moves to bring Ireland towards equality.

The country is set to have on a referendum on same-sex marriage in May, while the government is also moving forward with a same-sex adoption bill and a gender recognition bill.

The country’s health minister, Leo Varadkar – who made history last month by coming out as gay – is also heading a review of the country’s permanent ban on gay men donating blood.