ISD Senior Analyst Ciarán O’Connor writes an opinion piece for the Irish Examiner on the extremist groups who have been targeting libraries in Ireland in recent months over the availability of LGBTQ+ material and their recent shift towards schools and educators in light of a rollout of the updated relationship and sexuality education (RSE) curriculum in schools. The new curriculum is part of a major update announced by the government in 2018 aiming to update both teaching and learning “with societal developments, equipping students with information and guidance for living in today’s world and creating an inclusive experience to ensure the needs of every young person are met in our schools.”
Ciarán acknowledges that “this revamp is not without its challenges and there are parents who, based on their own moral, cultural or religious values, may object to their children being taught about some of these topics” or parents who “may have questions over the age appropriateness of books in a library.” However, “these concerns are being hijacked by a small cluster of activists who claim indoctrination, and not education, is the order of business in schools today and are motivated by the censorship of identities, diversity and learning in this country.”
Over the last year, protesters in Ireland– similar to those in the UK, US and abroad– have taken it upon themselves to rid public libraries of reading materials on LGBTQ+ people, equating book availability to the grooming of children. “In a sign of the increased mainstreaming of such extremist approaches in Ireland, now the focus on libraries is shifting and the next targets are schools, curriculums and educators. This campaign is also rooted in inflammatory rhetoric that describes RSE, particularly sections that cover gender identity, as “indoctrination” and encourages suspicion and hostility towards LBGTQ+ identities,” he says.
Ciarán included some observed examples of discourse that follows the same intolerance and rhetoric cast on other LGBTQ+-related issues: “This [RSE] is a horrendous agenda and attempted indoctrination”, “this is evil degeneracy” and “this Marxist ideology is out to destroy the nuclear family and endorse paedophilia”.
“Claims of a sinister agenda being enacted behind the scenes speak to the embrace of a conspiratorial worldview that many have embraced in recent years, particularly since the pandemic, as documented in our research at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a non-profit that researches disinformation, hate and extremism online. [… ] Calls for teachers who educate young people about RSE to be prosecuted litter these discussions, as do more explicit threats like one comment calling for ‘lists of names of those sick f*****’ to be compiled. There can be a place for further debate about the RSE curriculum but that is not what is going on here.”
The full article is available here.