As I mentioned earlier, we will skip Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, in deference to those who have been waiting for us. I ask members to stay behind when we have finished with our witnesses to take them. I apologise to the the witnesses for having delayed them. I have been Chairman of this committee for only two years but I believe this rarely happens, and we hope it will not happen again. We normally have good attendance at the committee. I thank the members who attended and Senator Paul Daly for stepping in.
The purpose of this part of the meeting is to resume the committee's review of relationships and sexuality education, RSE. This is the third of three sessions. We are gathering evidence on RSE in Ireland. We have gathered compelling evidence regarding what is happening and not happening in our education system in this regard, acknowledging that it has been 20 years since a programme was put in place and, with the advent of social media, etc., that many concerns are not being addressed. There is also a lack of consistency in how RSE is taught in our schools and at third level. We are also cognisant that the responsibility should not just fall on schools or educational organisations, and there is also a responsibility on parents and communities. It is a question of how we can all work together and make recommendations in this regard. We want to improve the curriculum to give our young people the skills they need, particularly in the areas of consent and contraception.
Our witnesses will provide a good variety of opinions, views and experience that will certainly help to influence the report we intend to compile and issue after all these engagements. I welcome Dr. Clíona Saidléar, executive director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland; Mr. Niall Behan, chief executive of the Irish Family Planning Association; Ms Jane Donnelly, human rights officer, Atheist Ireland; Dr. Aoife Neary, lecturer in sociology of education at University of Limerick, UL; Dr. Debbie Ging, associate professor of media studies at Dublin City University, DCU; Dr. Aidan Seery, senior tutor with the school of education at Trinity College Dublin; Ms Sarah Haslam, who is the training, learning and development manager with Foróige; and Ms Orla McGowan, programme manager for education, HSE. I acknowledge that Mr. Michael Nugent, Ms Avril Hickey and Ms Helen Deely are in the Public Gallery.
The format of this part of the meeting is that I will invite the witnesses to make brief opening statements, three minutes maximum, which will be followed by an engagement with the members of the committee. As we have a significant number of witnesses, which is important in their sharing the different views and experience they have, I ask them to respect the three-minute rule in so far as possible.
I draw the attention of the witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to this committee. However, if they are directed by the Chair to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. I must direct them also that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given, and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. I also advise them that the opening statements they make to the committee may be available on the committee's website after this meeting, as will the submissions they kindly forwarded.
I remind members of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I call Dr. Clíona Saidléar to make her opening statement.