25 Years On From Decriminalisation: What's Next For LGBT+ Rights In Ireland?

Councillor Francis Timmons from South Dublin County Council speaks of what Decriminalisation meant for him and what the community needs to strive towards for the future.

Protesters demonstrating for LGBT+ rights

Growing up gay in Ireland was very difficult for many generations of people. Before the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1993, myself and many others were labelled as criminals for simply being ourselves. Many were forced to hide their sexuality, referred to as ‘the love that could not be spoken of’.

For that reason, I am forever grateful to David Norris for his role in the decriminalisation process, and indeed to all the people who stood up when it wasn’t easy. When I look now at the current calibre of people running for the role of President, I can’t help but feel David Norris was the best President we never had.

We have come a long way since decriminalisation, with Marriage Equality, the Gender Recognition bill and the Children and Family Relationship Bill, but we still have more to do.

We need proper state-run sex education in our schools where nothing is based on any religious teachings, but is fact-based and evidence-based and follows the laws of the land. We need a state conversation on consent.

We must challenge all misinformation and lies. I for one have had enough of the Catholic Church calling homosexuality a moral evil and we cannot let this go unchallenged. I don’t need the church telling me I need to see a psychiatrist.

Hugh Lane

There are two pieces of legislation urgently needed in our state.

Firstly – Hate Crime Legislation. Myself and my husband have ourselves been the victims of hate crime. Two despicable letters were sent to our home and damage was done to our property following a homophobic Youtube video going up online just days before our home and car were vandalised. Despite what happened, no legal action could be taken as there is currently no legislation that covers hate crimes.

Secondly, I would also argue in support of CoCo’s Law. The family of Nicole Fox, known as CoCo, are pressing for implementation of this law following her death from suicide due to online bullying.

My recent motion as councillor called that the “South Dublin County Council recognise the hurt, pain and stigma caused by the law previous to decriminalisation. As we pass the 25th anniversary, we welcome the apology from An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. We as a council affirm our commitment to respect and promote diversity, equality and the individualism of each person in our county through sports, the arts and inclusion. We ask that An Taoiseach direct the Minister of Justice to introduce hate crime legislation and the Minister for Health to look at the HSE reimbursing PrEP medication to patients under the general medical services scheme (GMS) or the drug payment scheme. We also agree to send this motion to all other councils in our state.’’

We have come a long way to an Ireland that now accepts LGBT+ politicians, including an openly gay Taoiseach, a lesbian Minister for Children and several gay Senators and Councillors. On a personal note, my partner Darren and I married after 19 years together last October, it took a long time but homosexuality is now the love that can be spoken of. We now need the bisexual and trans communities represented at all levels too. We will get there even though there is still a lot to be done.

Councillor Francis Timmons with his husband on their wedding day

The role of local government is very limited and sometimes it can appear nearly irrelevant but I believe passionately in local politics and I believe a local councillor can impact national agendas by raising issues at local county level. We all have a part in ensuring that the advancement of LGBT+ rights and equality are given their rightful voice. For instance, in South Dublin County Council I have the Pride flag flown every year outside our Clondalkin offices – to me this is important.

Equality is the buzzword in Ireland the last few years, but has Ireland reached true equality? We cannot have equality when we have so many homeless, so many in living in constant poverty. Equality must be for everyone and no one can be left behind.

A few short weeks ago I was extremely proud to Stand4Truth with Colm O’Gorman – a huge event which called for three simple but important values: Truth, Justice and Love. They have become my mantra and values that are important to all our community and society in general.

Let’s never lose those values. Truth. Justice. And Love.

© 2018 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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