Letter – Relationship and Sexuality Education – RSE

The following letter by Mr Samuel Morrison, Press Officer with the Traditional Unionist Voice party, appeared in today’s ‘Belfast Newsletter’.

I know it will be of interest to our readers.

Sincerely in Christ’s name,

Ivan Foster

The Relationship and Sexuality Education curriculum

Mr Samuel Morrison
Press Officer
Traditional Unionist Voice

Back in June the Secretary of State announced that he was bringing in changes to the Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) curriculum in Northern Ireland. These changes did not come out of the blue. They are a direct consequence of Section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019. Section 9 is of course the same piece of legislation which stripped Northern Ireland’s unborn of the protection of the law and created one of the most permissive abortion regimes in Europe. Another consequence of the 2019 Act was the redefinition of marriage.

As the title of the legislation suggests, it also provided for the formation of an executive. Anyone who went into government on the basis of the 2019 Act did so on the basis of legislation which redefined marriage, introduced abortion and paved the way for the changes to RSE. That may be a fact which makes some in the DUP rather uncomfortable – particularly when one remembers just how long the Executive formed on the basis of the Act lasted – but fact it is nonetheless.

The changes in relation to our abortion law has already had radical consequences. Up until October last year, 4,136 were performed in Northern Ireland since the law changed at the end of March 2020. Contrast that with the situation between 2014 and 2019 when a total of 65 abortions were performed across Northern Ireland and it cannot be denied that the increase in the number of abortions is astronomical. One would be hard pressed to maintain an argument that there is a lack of information on how to access an abortion.

Yet information on how to access abortions is exactly what the Secretary of State is bringing into our schools. The Relationships and Sexuality Education (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 2023 state that secondary schools will have to teach “age-appropriate, comprehensive and scientifically accurate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights covering prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion”.

Tellingly, there is no provision for the ethos of schools in the regulations – something which will set schools in Northern Ireland apart from their counterparts in the rest of the U.K.

Furthermore, suggestions that those who are concerned about these matters will have opportunity to feed into a consultation are at best being disingenuous. Any curriculum must be faithful to the legislative framework which frames abortion in terms of a “right”.

Simply put, the regulations lay the groundwork for secondary schools in Northern Ireland to be required to teach a moral wrong is actually a civil right. It will do so without any regard for the conscience of the teacher or the ethos of the school.

While the Department of Education has been quick to seize on salacious and inaccurate information spread by one group which suggested the changes were much more radical and would impact primary schools (they will not) there has been little serious debate in Northern Ireland about the changes which are coming.

It is also noteworthy that the changes have knock on consequences for devolution. Many Unionists who held their noses when it came to accepting Sinn Fein in government did so on the basis at least Stormont would permit Unionists to exercise a degree of control. Some argued that the parallel consent mechanisms of the Belfast Agreement could be used to stop the redefinition of marriage and abortion and would prevent Westminster imposing things over the heads of Unionists.

London has, however, not only repeatedly meddled in devolved matters but, due to the Protocol, has even trashed Northern Ireland’s constitutional position as a full and equal member of the U.K.

With little prospect of things improving if devolution was to return – there is a majority in the Assembly which is even more radical than Westminster on a range of issues such as “conversion therapy”, transgenderism and exclusion zones – those concerned about the changes to RSE in Northern Ireland are unlikely to see any improvement under a Stormont executive.

Mr Samuel Morrison
Press Officer
Traditional Unionist Voice

31 August 2023