The Irish Minister for Education and Skills has launched new procedures to target anti-gay and anti-trans bullying in all Irish primary and post-primary schools.

Ruairí Quinn TD launched the new mandatory policy as way to tackle growing concerns about homophobic bullying in Irish schools.

It will require all schools to address homophobic and transphobic bullying specifically, and includes procedures for developing education and prevention strategies that take on homophobic and transphobic bullying.

Sandra Irwin-Gowran, Director of Education Policy at Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), said: “These new procedures provide the opportunity to radically transform the lives of young LGBT people in every school in the country, and make Irish schools safe, supportive and affirming for young LGBT people.”

Michael Barron, Director at BeLonG To added: “The fact that the Department of Education and Skills now requires – on a mandatory footing – all schools, both primary and post primary, to address homophobic and transphobic bullying and to develop education strategies to ensure that LGBT young people are welcomed and supported in every school is a major breakthrough.

“Every class in every school in Ireland has LGBT students. Many schools are already working to create a climate that is safe and supportive for these students. Many other schools, however, are not working to support LGBT young people and these procedures provide much needed support and direction for those schools.”

Research in Ireland shows that homophobia is a serious issue in Irish schools, and that there is a direct link between homophobic bullying and suicidal behaviour amongst LGBT young people.

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.

Mr Barron added: “Minister Quinn and the officials at the Dept of Education and the Education Partners are to be congratulated at the very significant step that these new procedures represent towards the shared goal of the eradication of homophobic and transphobic bullying in all primary and post primary schools in Ireland.”

In June, 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.