As part of her recent Seanad statements on Bullying in Schools Senator Zappone took the opportunity to raise the delay in the establishment of the new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission with Minister Quinn. The new body is due to examine Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act once it is extablished.
Below is the Minister's response to Senator Zappone.
Minister Ruairi Quinn:
That leads me on to what Senator Zappone had to say. Understandably, she focused on the question of homophobic bullying. The 1993 guidelines made no reference to homophobia - it was a word that could not be spoken about. It will come as no surprise to Members that, in the wider education community, some representative groups did not want to address the issue and took the view that because it was not a problem in their school, it did not exist. However, we all know that homophobia exists. Senator Zappone made an interesting point about progress on the legislation initiated by Senator Power on protection for teachers in the classroom. I will either come back to Senator Zappone on that or I will ask her to follow up that matter with Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter. The A list includes legislation to merge the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority and our reforms in that area are destined to go through. However, if we do not make the progress that I and this House want to see, it is open to this House to take whatever action it wants to. I hope that some of the bureaucrats that sit behind some of the committees respond to that threat. I hope it does not come to that. This House is sovereign in its own right and can decide what it wants to initiate. What happens in the future is another matter. We need to have teachers, as they are key role models in the classroom. If somebody who is openly gay or lesbian is part of the normal community, that gives great support and sustenance to young people who are struggling with their own identity. We know this struggle starts at a younger age now.
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