A conference looking at the Irish LGBT+ community living in the UK, which began yesterday, has been described as the “first of its kind” in terms of discourse on LGBT+ migration.
‘LGBT Equality and Ireland – Past and Present’ examined two main issues central to the Irish LGBT+ community living in the United Kingdom – marriage equality in Northern Ireland and the history and role of Irish LGBT+ people in Britain over the past few decades.
Dr Joseph Healy who is a member of the London Irish LGBT Network (LILN), spoke about the conference’s significance in terms of Anglo-Irish relations:
“Although there have been studies carried out into Irish LGBT migration, there hasn’t really been a discussion or a conference so it is the first of its kind.”
Healy also highlighted the significance of having an openly gay Taoiseach in advance of the conference:
“Whatever about his politics, the fact that you can have an openly gay Taoiseach is a huge breakthrough and it will help others who want to be in politics to come out.”
Dr Healy also spoke about his own experience as an openly gay ex-patriot. He left Ireland in 1984 and experienced homelessness as well as prejudice in the UK:
“There was also the question of my gay identity and my Irish identity: being Irish was not easy with the bombing campaigns still ongoing and a lot of anti-Irish prejudice, both in the wider society, but also in the LGBT subculture.”
Dr Shaw, another speaker involved in ‘LGBT Equality and Ireland – Past and Present’ spoke about the importance of conferences in terms of generating a discourse on issues relevant to the Irish LGBT+ community:
“We need to constantly be talking about where we are as a society. It’s not just about people coming along to listen to the speakers, it’s about having conversations with people.”
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