Fianna Fáil’s Seanad Spokesperson on Education, Averil Power, says many teachers and doctors still fear for their jobs because of the Government’s failure to meet its own deadline for publishing legislation to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff.
Senator Power was speaking in the Seanad today, one year on from the publication of a Fianna Fáil bill to amend Section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Act. At present, Section 37.1 may be relied upon by religious-run institutions such as schools and hospitals to justify discrimination against employees solely on the basis of their sexual orientation, marital status or gender identity.
Senator Power commented: “The possibility of such discrimination is a source of real fear and unhappiness for LGBT staff. Many teachers in particular have told me that they feel the need to hide their sexual orientation from their colleagues and pretend to be someone else at work. Each of them has the same message: they want to be judged on the same basis as everyone else – on the quality of their work – not on someone else’s prejudiced view of their sexual orientation.
“In opposing the Fianna Fáil bill last May, Minister Shatter promised to bring forward his own proposals early in the New Year. Not only has he failed to do so, the body he tasked with developing the proposals hasn’t even been established yet.
“Disappointingly, when I raised this in the Seanad today, the Government simply restated its intention to wait for the new Human Rights and Equality Commission to be in place before starting any work on this issue. There is absolutely no excuse for this delay. Either of the existing equality bodies could have been tasked with doing this work a year ago. Sadly, I think the fact that they weren’t is an indication of the lack of priority that the Government has attached to addressing this issue.”