Northern Ireland has faced immense challenges to its predominantly Christian culture and social values in the past several years, with radical changes to its laws being imposed by Westminster, which have included what must be taught in schools. Religion matters in Northern Ireland, and despite the legacy of the Protestant-Catholic divide, both communities were often united on key moral issues. The 1967 Abortion Act, for instance, was never extended to Northern Ireland, and the country did not follow suit when the other members of the United Kingdom all legalised same-sex marriage in 2014. Parents in Northern Ireland might, therefore, expect an education system which respects their beliefs and traditions; however, recent developments fundamentally threaten both parental rights and the freedom to deliver a faith-based education in Northern Ireland.
Health and Education (including abortion and RSE) were devolved issues managed by the Northern Ireland Executive until 2017, when power sharing collapsed. The UK Government, acting on behalf of the Northern Ireland Executive, passed The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019, Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 (legislation.gov.uk) — originally introduced as a bill mostly concerned with administrative matters in the Province; it was hijacked by several amendments which sought to bring Northern Ireland into line with the liberal politics of the UK, with regard to same-sex marriage and abortion. Northern Ireland has had to implement recommendations made by Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination of Women (CEDAW), included in section 9 of the Act, which imposes an even more extreme abortion agenda onto Northern Ireland than exists in the rest of the UK, and goes against the country’s consistent pro-life majority.
The people of Northern Ireland are also outraged by the changes the new legal framework bring to the role of RSE in their children’s schools. As a consequence of the 2019 Act, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was empowered to introduce The Relationships and Sexuality Education (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 2023. The new Regulations, approved by the House of Commons in June this year, ensured that the “relationships” sections of these lessons are compulsory and must include lessons on abortion and contraception; including teaching children how to get easy access to both contraception and abortion, even if children are underage, and without needing to inform their parents. This applies in all state funded schools, including faith schools. There is a parental opt-out option for the “sex education” element of the RSE programme; however, lessons on abortion and LGBT ideology will be implemented via the “relationships” part of these lessons. These new regulations mean the UK Government has been able to dictate the moral education of the children of Northern Ireland, making it impossible for pro-life and Christian parents to raise their children in line with their beliefs. What is causing further difficulty, is that even Catholic schools are being forced to teach what the state regards as “comprehensive and scientifically accurate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights, covering prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion”, including practices which run directly contrary to Catholic teaching. Consequently, many parents are actively now joining in the fight for their rights and many teachers have signed petitions that say they will refuse to teach any such material.
According to our contact in Northern Ireland, the resistance to the new and mandatory lessons has been phenomenal. Many groups have formed, continual meetings are being held, and each meeting sees more parents joining the fight. Indeed, recent rallies have seen thousands of parents attend to challenge the new RSE programme, including the recent ‘Leave our kids alone’ campaign, which saw up to 3000 people gather at Belfast City Hall, where it was pointed out that the age of consent in NI is 16 years, and, consequently, having schools teach on abortion should be open to a legal challenge.
‘Let kids be kids’ was founded by Jonathan Buckley, a Democratic Union Party (DUP) member and Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLA), to campaign specifically against the harmful new RSE lessons in NI schools. Mr Buckley claims that the new RSE lessons are one of the biggest concerns which parents have raised to him, and he is very much in support of their objections. He has been incredibly active in the fight against the UK Government’s indoctrination of children. He says, “Children have a right to their innocence. Politicians and activists don’t have a right to take this gift from them. Let kids be kids. I want to reassure all the concerned parents and teachers in Northern Ireland that I will be standing with them. Standing to ensure that children are protected from radical, harmful and explicit materials – standing to let kids be kids”.
A collection of parents and teachers have also set up another group, the Campaign Against RSE in NI. They claim that the UK Government has “stripped the Stormont Government (Northern Ireland Assembly) of all Power”, and are also promoting their sister organisation’s petition, Abolish Abortion NI, to restore Stormont to power.
The people of Northern Ireland have witnessed a radical change to their politics and, consequently, many are feeling threatened with how these new political ideologies will affect their culture and way of life. There are, however, many people who are determined to defeat the imposition of “Relationships and Sexuality Education” in Northern Ireland schools, and numbers do often speak volumes. ParentPower supports their efforts in organising resistance to the new RSE policy and to reinstate laws that protect children, parental rights and the sanctity of human life. The Christian values of the people of Northern Ireland must prevail, not the destructive secular liberal values of a corrupt and undemocratic Westminster elite.