out of step | 

Ciara Kelly says politicians are not listening to parents on trans education in schools

‘I think we are absolutely terrified to have a debate on this’

Dr Ciara Kelly

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

Radio presenter Ciara Kelly has weighed in on transgender education in primary schools, saying politicians are “completely out of step with parents”, in the debate.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Ciara said politicians were 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.”

She was speaking after President Michael D Higgins, while not addressing transgender education directly, said schools should provide “basic information regarding sexuality in the fullest sense”.

The president 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.

The Irish Muslim Council also backed the CPSMA, saying it is “not appropriate” to teach children about gender identity issues in primary schools.

In a letter posted on their Twitter account, the council’s Chair Dr Umar Al-Qadri, said they believe “it's not appropriate to teach primary school children such a complex and contested topic, particularly when there is a lack of scientific consensus about the best way to treat children with gender dysphoria”.

He said the Taoiseach should focus instead on “solving the health crisis, the housing crisis and many other challenges we face as a nation”.

The Taoiseach labelled the letter “unhelpful”, but Ciara said the controversy over the Tavistock clinic in the UK and recent medical debate over the gender affirmation model of care demanded ongoing debate.

The UK clinic is being replaced by smaller, regionalised services amid concerns over the services it was providing to children.

Ciara referred to the British Medical Journal which 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 pointed out the model has been abandoned in the UK, Scandinavia and the Netherlands.

“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 Coleman 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.”

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