SaraBurke.com

Spinning out over threesomes

Posted in Blog by saraburke on May 10, 2013

 

Minister Reilly’s reaction to a Sunday newspaper article was to order a review of HSE funding for SpunOut.ie. My column for the Medical Independent from 11 April wonders how this became news in the first place

The Sunday Independent ran a front page story on an advice article about threesomes that appeared on the SpunOut.ie website. It is one of more than 3,000 articles on sex, mental health, alcohol, drugs, education and employment on the SpunOut.ie website, which gives objective advice to 16- to 25-year-olds.

SpunOut.ie, according to itself, is dedicated to helping young people make informed decisions about things which may be happening in their lives. It is youth-led by a panel of 17 young people who determine the direction and focus of the organisation’s work. It has a staff of five which runs the website, edits all the material and empowers young people to participate. It gets €124,000 from the HSE to provide health information to young people. Much of the content is written by young people themselves, edited by a SpunOut editor and factchecked by an appropriate professional.

The article in question gave young people advice on the pros and cons of threesomes, all the time promoting safe sex and encouraging young people not to do anything they are not comfortable with. The page came across as approving of threesomes, which was objectionable to many. It has been edited since, appropriately toning down some of the more positive lines on threesomes. Mayo Fine Gael TD, Michelle Mulherin was outraged with the content and suggested SpunOut.ie should not be funded with public money.

Minister Reilly, in his wisdom, capitulated to the pressure, announcing a HSE review of SpunOut.ie’s funding the next day. So how on earth does a story like this get front page attention on the country’s best selling Sunday broadsheet? As far as this writer can work out – what happened was as follows. SpunOut.ie was launching its new website the week before the story ran. To mark the website launch, SpunOut ran a live show devised, produced and presented by young people in Croke Park that was broadcast online.

There was much tweeting and social media attention to the SpunOut live event, including tweets from this columnist who was lucky enough to be invited to the event (I was a board member of SpunOut.ie from 2009 to 2012). This was around the same time that the Sunday Independent journalist came across the ‘threesome’ webpage.

She then called Michelle Mulherin of ‘fornication’ fame for comment, which was then used as front page fodder.

This was the same journalist who, two weeks previously, had written an article entitled ‘Ireland’s most eligible bachelors – the names every girl should know’ to go along with their rich list. SpunOut.ie defended the article, saying they “believe in the ability of young people to make the right decision for themselves once they have access to quality and reliable information, such as the information provided by our website…. we do not promote threesomes, we arm young people with the facts about them”.

How on earth can the Minister not think that €124,000 is good value for providing such broad and extensive information, for young people by young people, especially if young people actually read it and engage with SpunOut.ie, which they do? Have a look at the HSE’s own yoursexualhealth.ie and you will see why young people go to SpunOut.ie in their droves.

SpunOut.ie was started in an attic in Donegal by a hugely innovative young person, Ruairi McKiernan, as a response to the failure of the State to meet young people’s health needs. It has blossomed and transformed since to meet the changing needs of young people. It has always had some health board/HSE funding as well as significant philanthropic funding. It reaches over one million users per year and has won every social media and social innovation award going.

Young people are bearing the brunt of much of the current economic crisis, with more than 30 per cent youth unemployment, high emigration and the stresses of youth exacerbated by the crisis.

Meanwhile, government continues to cut support to youth groups including SpunOut.ie. It would be a damn shame if Reilly used the ‘review’ as a way to withdraw funding to an organisation that is playing a critical role in informing and supporting young people, while the State continues to fail them.

 

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