Gay people 'cut off in rural areas'
Gay people in rural areas suffer isolation and discrimination and feel unable to fully integrate into their communities, it has been claimed.
A new national programme designed to support the needs of homosexual people claimed a significant number find it difficult to reveal their sexual orientation and remain in the place they were born and raised.
Derek McDonnell, programme manager for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Diversity, said mainstream services cannot provide proper support, leading to profound isolation and a heightened risk of mental health problems.
He said: "Despite recent progress for LGBT people in Ireland, a significant number still find it difficult to be 'out' and remain living in their local communities. Much of this is the result of a lack of recognition that all communities are made up of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
"Many LGBT people migrate towards Dublin or other cities because they feel they cannot play a full role in the community in which they were born and raised."
LGBT Diversity aims to improve support and services for people of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations, targeting rural communities in particular.
Regional development workers have been posted in the north west, the midlands and the south east to identify the needs of LGBT people and organisations in their region as well as liaising with mainstream services
Equality Minister Pat Carey said the programme was timely, coming in the wake of the passing of the Civil Partnership Bill.
"That historic event showed how far we have travelled when it comes to embracing diversity as a society but it also gave us an opportunity to reflect on how far we still have to go," Mr Carey said.
"As we continue on this journey, I am sure that this programme will be instrumental in driving change and promoting equality and integration and I welcome its publication."