Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Equal rights of LGBT people and their families must be unambiguously protected

Munster Senior Hurling Championship Final 11/7/2010
Cork 
Goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie *** Local Caption ***
Munster Senior Hurling Championship Final 11/7/2010 Cork Goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie *** Local Caption ***

Donal Og Cusack is an Irish sporting legend. He’s a Cork former All Ireland hurling champion, and now a brilliant hurling analyst on RTE’s Sunday Game.

Some time ago he told us all about coming out as a gay man.

In doing so he courageously challenged Irish society, and stood up for every Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender person.

On Valentine’s night, during the Late, Late Show, his brother Conor showed similar courage.  Conor’s an electrician, a hurler, and he also happens to be a gay man.

Conor explained his struggle with depression, and how he nearly committed suicide.

His story is not unique.

New research from the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland published in 2013 found that LGBT Irish were seven times more likely to take their lives through suicide, and that this increased risk is linked to discrimination related stress.

That’s a shocking reality, and the most serious consequence of homophobic and transphobic bullying which can happen in the workplace, school, and even in family or social settings.

Despite progress in decriminalising expression of their gender identity, LGBT citizens remain discriminated.

Ireland’s LGBT people are very visible and self-confident.  Gay Pride parades are colourful, happy and inclusive events.  Gay people are an important part of modern Ireland’s diversity.

However despite legal victories, increased social tolerance and legal protections, homophobic, and transphobic discrimination, harassment and even violence, are a reality for LGBT citizens.

LGBT people and their families’ equal rights must be protected under the law north and south, as well as under the 1937 Constitution, and through enactment of a Bill of Rights in the north.

Work under way by the northern Executive to develop an integrated domestic and sexual violence and abuse strategy should ensure issues affecting LGBT people are included.  The existing hate crime legislation in the south needs enhanced to include stronger provisions which require that homophobia and transphobia are included as bias motives to be treated as aggravating circumstances in prosecutions.

Sinn Fein has recently published ten key legislative proposals to entrench LGBT rights in Ireland.

Equality is an absolute right for every citizen.  Homophobic and transphobic attitudes and behaviour must be rejected.

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