Gay principal praises law on same-sex civil union
A GAY principal of a small rural primary school has welcomed the law allowing same-sex civil partnerships.
One of its consequences is that gay and lesbian teachers will now enjoy the same pension and marital leave entitlements as heterosexual couples.
Cathal O'Riada of Cuil Aodha national school in the west Cork Gaeltacht, said it was a "hugely important step in the right direction".
Mr O'Riada is chairperson of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Teachers (LGBT) Group. He is son of the late Sean O'Riada, who led the renaissance of Irish traditional music in the 1960s.
Mr O'Riada said the new legislation had many implications for schools, not least the issue of marital leave for gay, lesbian and bisexual teachers.
The new law, which came into effect in January, provides, for the first time, legal recognition for same-sex couples.
In the past week, the Department of Education formally advised schools and other education bodies of the changes and the need to treat civil partners in the same way as married couples.
The changes mean, for example, that a benefit under a pension scheme that is provided for the spouse of a person is deemed to provide equally for the civil partner of a person.
Also, a member of staff is entitled to "civil partnership leave" if he or she would have an entitlement to "marriage leave".
The department is rewriting all of its documentation and adding "or civil partner" where the word 'spouse' appears.
Similarly, wherever the word 'marriage' appears it is being amended to read "marriage or civil partnership".
Mr O'Riada , who spoke at the INTO annual conference this week, recalled the first time he came out publicly as a gay teacher at an INTO/LGBT education conference in 2009.
He said although nervous in advance, it turned out to be a "hugely positive experience".
INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan also welcomed the department's circular to schools.