Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD has called for a renewed commitment to delivering tangible services to protect and empower members of Ireland’s LGBTQ community.
Speaking on the 25th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, Deputy Shortall paid tribute to campaigners including Senator Norris, former President Mary Robinson and former Minister for Justice Maura Geoghegan Quinn who brought forward the legislation in 1993 to allow for decriminalisation of homosexuality and an equal age of consent.
Deputy Shortall said:
“Decriminalisation, marriage equality and discrimination protections are the bare bones of what LGBTQ people needed in terms of ending legal discrimination. If the government is serious about protecting and empowering this community, it needs to focus on concrete and tangible issues and service provision.
“Self-congratulatory speeches in the Dáil chamber today will do nothing for people less than a kilometre away in the Baggot Street MSM Health Clinic. This is a facility that is unique in Ireland in the services it provides to men who have sex with men – but is literally falling down around the ears of the staff and patients.
“Today’s speeches do nothing to address the frankly baffling ongoing lack of progress on hate crime legislation which makes it difficult to track and prevent homophobic and transphobic crime. They do nothing to reassure people who are now being affected by the stalled commencement of sections of the Family and Relationships Act, which is causing untold distress and anxiety for LGBTQ people raising children.
“Our contributions do nothing to reassure transgender children that their voices will be heard in the review of the gender recognition legislation, or those waiting on lists for endocrinology services. Our speeches will do little for those who are buying PreP online and hoping it won’t be seized by customs, which is particularly galling given the alarming rates of new HIV infections being reported.”
Deputy Shortall acknowledged progress over the past two decades, but said stigma remains and rears its ugly head in many ways.
“Verbal and physical intimidation of LGBTQ people continues, Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying is rife in our schools. Outmoded sex and relationship education that is of little use to LGBTQ people is still the norm. Most tragically, the rates of self-harm and suicide in this community remain alarmingly high. The number of transgender individuals who have engaged in self-harm in particular is stark with one report suggesting that upwards of 80% of members of this community have experienced suicidal ideation.
“I raised the issue of the poor placing of Ireland on the 2017 European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association “Rainbow Map” with the then Minister for Justice in October of last year. Of 49 countries, Ireland placed 15th in terms of the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ persons. I would hope that the government, being led as it is by an out and proud gay man, would reflect on this fact and recommit itself to making Ireland a world leader for protecting and enhancing the lives of LGBTQ people here at home.
“We have come a long way since 1993, but we still have a long way to go and more must be done to ensure that our LGBTQ family and friends enjoy full and equal rights as citizens.”