Politicians are ‘completely out of step with parents’ on transgender education in primary schools, Ciara Kelly has warned.
She was speaking after President Michael D Higgins appeared to weigh in on the debate, saying that schools should provide “basic information regarding sexuality in the fullest sense”.
While the president did not address transgender education directly, he made the comments just days after the Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPSMA) wrote to ministers voicing its opposition to teaching transgender issues to primary school children.
In the days since the letter, both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste have come out in support of the idea -with Micheál Martin labelling the letter ‘unhelpful’.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, presenter Ciara Kelly said politicians are trying to ‘tell parents what they should think rather than listening to what parents want’.
“I think we are absolutely terrified to have a debate on this and the interesting thing, I think, is that politicians are absolutely out of step with parents,” she said.
“Parents are discussing this and parents have a view and it is my understanding, from the feedback that I see on social media and the feedback I get from people talking about this when you’re meeting them at school gates and stuff, is that parents have deep misgivings.
“By the way, I don’t mind what people’s view is on any of this stuff because everyone is absolutely entitled to their view – but parents have deep misgivings about two things.
“One is about children transitioning young. Parents have deep misgivings about that.
“Also, parents have deep misgivings with this idea that at a certain age you don’t need parental consent. Your minor children, your under-18 children don’t need parental consent.”
Ciara said the controversy over the Tavistock clinic in the UK and recent medical debate over the gender affirmation model of care highlight the need for ongoing debate on the issue, “whether Micheál Martin wants us to debate this or not”.
The UK clinic is due to be closed by the Spring amid concerns over the services it was providing to children. It is being replaced by smaller, regionalised services.
Meanwhile, Ciara said the British Medical Journal has come out and said there is no evidence to support the affirmation model, which is based on the idea that trans children tell the truth about their own gender identity and should be supported in those choices.
Ciara said the model has been abandoned in the UK, Scandinavia and the Netherlands – insisting that it is “being debated everywhere whether Micheál Martin wants it to be debated or not”.
“The interface between children and [transgender issues] is fraught with difficulty,” Ciara said.
“The interface between those two things is very contentious, whether your politicians will tell you this or not, it absolutely is.
“Parents don’t want no debate. Parents want their input taken into account.
“I think politicians are telling parents what they should think rather than listening to what parents want.”
Shane agreed, saying: “That debate seems to be happening everywhere except in Leinster House.”
“No politician wants to touch it,” he said. “It is political cowardice. That’s what it is.”
He noted that President Higgins was “wading into the political arena for the umpteenth time” and questioned why Micheál Martin was so quick to come out against the CPSMA letter but unwilling to challenge President Higgins.
“It is OK for Michael D Higgins as president, supposedly not engaging in political issues, to come out on this issue but it is not OK for the CPSMA, whose members are intimately involved in this, to express their views on it,” he said.
“That, to me, is really worrying and that, to me, points to a democratic deficit.
“Regardless of what you think on this issue - everybody is totally entitled to their view - I worry that we are not having a debate on this.”