Last week, Michael Snee and Aidan Moffitt were brutally murdered in Sligo in two separate suspected homophobic attacks. These two horrific killings have highlighted the culture of homophobia and transphobia that still permeates Irish society and many are speaking out about the safety concerns that LGBTQ+ people continue to face today.
In 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage through a popular referendum. For many people, that meant that Ireland overcame homophobia and that a culture of inclusivity and acceptance had put down roots in our society. However, according to Limerick City Labour Party councillor Conor Sheehan, Ireland still has a long way to go.
“There was a feeling amongst a lot of people that since marriage equality, we had washed all the homophobia out of the country, but that’s not the case,” he said during an interview with the Irish Examiner.
Respectful vigil for the lives of Adrian and Michael of Sligo. Very moving music and speeches. Let this never happen again. Love will prevail. pic.twitter.com/AWQkHHC8VJ
— Louise Jordan (@louezejordan) April 18, 2022
Sheehan talked about how the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland still has to face abuse and discrimination and how many members cannot feel safe. “I am single, but if I was in a relationship, I don’t think I would feel safe, or comfortable, being affectionate in public. That says a lot about where are now, and I am not being dramatic,” he explained.
“We see it when people come up to people in public places, have slurs thrown at them, and have been physically attacked. So this is a wake-up call that this is something that we, as a society, are struggling with,” he added.
Over the long weekend, vigils were held across the whole country to pay tribute to the two victims of the suspected homophobic murders in Sligo, but also to draw attention to how homophobia and transphobia are still a threat to LGBTQ+ lives in Ireland.
“First and foremost we need strong hate crime legalisation to be brought forward by the Government. We need stronger action from the top down” said Sherman.
A very emotional and powerful vigil this evening in Sligo for Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee. RIP pic.twitter.com/IY2ywutk0C
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley_) April 15, 2022
His words were echoed by Ben Slimm, Chairman of the Labour Party in Kerry and one of the organisers of the Tralee vigil, who said: “LGBTQ people are still not safe in Irish society and I don’t think we will ever feel safe, not for a long, long time”.
The first step in tackling these threats to LGBTQ+ lives, he said, is the implementation of proper hate crime legislation. Speaking about this issue, he said that a hate crime aims to marginalise and make people feel like unwanted in society.
“That’s what it feels like. I feel like had it been me in that situation, I would have been targeted,” said Slimm. “It does make me feel and question how safe am I. When you see the press there is around this, it is a reminder that you are not safe. That is the bottom line of it: that it could be you. It is very tough.”
A law to protect LGBTQ+ people from violence would represent a powerful message from the Government, but it would only be a first step to ensuring the protection of queer folks from a culture of homophobia and transphobia. Real change runs deeper and it needs to be pushed with further action. According to Education Minister Norma Foley, who spoke at the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) conference in Killarney, education is a fundamental part of the process that would lead to such change.
“As I have previously said, schools that embrace diversity, tolerance and a culture of respect for all are an important building block for the kind of society that we all want to see for today’s children in the future,” she said. Citing the “terrible events” that happened in Sligo last week, she stated that a ‘zero tolerance’ approach should be adopted towards violence against any member of the community.
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