“I was repeatedly told that despite the highly problematic content some schools still found these resources ‘useful,’ ” O’Leary tweeted Wednesday. “A useful way of minimizing the ugliness of homophobic and misogynistic elements of Irish society,” she added.
She posted screenshots of some of the now-deleted materials on Wednesday. The pictures included statements such as “you can change from being a homosexual” and “homosexuals try to make others homosexual,” that the students were invited to debate. Similar rhetoric — which has been debunked by scientists and policymakers — was used for decades in anti-gay campaigns.
Ireland, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, was one of the first countries to have a gay head of government. Leo Varadkar served as the country’s first openly gay taoiseach, or prime minister, from 2017 to 2020. Varadkar’s political success — he is set to become prime minister again in about a year — was viewed as emblematic of Ireland’s transition to a more socially liberal society as it increasingly leaves conservative Roman Catholic traditions out of public life.
Lawmakers said the teaching materials indicate the country still has a way to go, however.
Sen. Martin Conway of the center-right Fine Gael party tweeted that the entire system needs to be “overhauled” to ensure students have access to relationship and sexual education “without bias, religious influence.”
A recent study co-led by Ireland’s University of Limerick found that many trans and gender diverse young people feel marginalized in school and experience prejudicial treatment including misnaming and misgendering.
The Irish National LGBT Federation said it was “disturbing” that such teaching material was “ever considered appropriate.”
“Young LGBT+ people — indeed all students — deserve a fact based, inclusive [education] — not harmful & offensive ‘debates’ about their innate identities,” the group wrote.
The Education Department couldn’t immediately be reached for comment early Thursday. A spokesman told the Irish Times that officials attempted to remove the online material in June, after the guidance counselor raised the issue. But a “caching issue” meant they were still accessible after that date.
“This technical issue has now been resolved,” he told the paper.
In the United States, states including California, New Jersey and Colorado have taken steps that require schools to teach a history and social science curriculum inclusive of LGBTQ people and identities. Nevada in June passed a law mandating that such content start in kindergarten. Several other states limit such education to older children, according to New America, a liberal-leaning think tank.
The debate around LGBTQ student rights is contentious, with a torrent of anti-transgender bills sweeping through Republican-controlled legislatures in Oklahoma and elsewhere.