The Irish Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn TD today opened a European Union conference on homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools, and emphasised the importance education plays in reducing such prejudice.

Mr Quinn opened the conference, which was organised by the European region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), and Irish organisations GLEN, and BeLonG To.

It is the first ever EU-level conference on homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools.

The aim of the conference was to bring together national policy makers, teachers, school leaders and NGOs, in order to debate, and tackle the issue of bullying, reports GCN.

The Minister for Education said: “Education plays a key role in supporting LGBT young people and also tackling the underlying prejudices which can lead to homophobic and transphobic bullying”.

Michael Barron, Director of BeLonG To Youth Services said: “There is a growing understanding of the seriousness of the issues for young LGBT people, both in Ireland and across Europe. The Department of Education has recently published a national Action Plan on Bullying that fully integrates measures to tackle prejudice, including homophobia and transphobia which are the root causes of much bullying.

“The lessons being learned in Ireland can contribute to further developments across Europe, much as we can learn from innovative and successful practices in other countries.”

Kerry County Council passed a motion in support of equal marriage on Monday, becoming the latest local authority in Ireland to vote in favour of marriage equality.

The motion was tabled by Labour Councillor, Gillian Wharton-Slattery, after she was approached by members of the gay community, asking why the motion had not been passed yet.

A study published last week suggested that many gay and bisexual teenagers who are bullied at a younger age – are picked on less by the time they reach 19 – but they still remain disproportionately affected by the problem.

Anna Grodzka, Europe’s first transgender MP spoke out about poverty and social exclusion in the LGBT community last Sunday at the National Lesbian and Gay Federation Conference in Dublin.