Campaigners in Ireland have welcomed calls by a government child protection adviser to improve the way schools deal with homophobic bullying and also for legal recognition of same-sex parents.

Research shows 50% of Irish students have experienced verbal homophobic or transphobic bullying; 25% have been physically threatened by their peers; and 34% have heard homophobic comments from their teachers.

Irish schools already have legal requirements to address homophobic and transphobic bullying, however at many schools there is still a culture of silence around LGBT issues, which creates a climate where such bullying continues unchallenged.

“The recommendation that the protection of LGBT young people in schools from bullying be considered a child protection issue is a clear recognition that homophobic and transphobic bullying are serious problems in Irish schools”, said Sandra Irwin-Gowran, director of education with Ireland’s Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN).

The report prepared by Ireland’s Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, also says the failure to legally recognise same-sex civil partners “ignores reality” and is causing insecurity for children and their parents.

In addition to same-sex couples, the report recommends extending special guardianship rights to all civil partners and step-parents, whether of the same or the opposite sex.

Ireland’s Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, is currently preparing a Family Recognition and Children Bill which will address  legal protections for same-sex parents. The Constitutional Convention voted overwhelmingly last April for reform of parenting laws to fully include same-sex headed families.

Last month, Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore called for greater tolerance in the country. 

“We cannot afford to put our society into suspended animation. We must still turn our face towards progress…We must continue to build a modern Ireland based on prosperity and openness, solidarity and freedom”, Mr Gilmore said.

A referendum on equal marriage in Ireland will take place in 2014.