'Inclusive sex education is badly needed in Ireland', Laura Harmon shares the issues that matter to her most

Laura Harmon was the president of the USI during the Marriage Equality referendum and is now running for the Seanad.

Laura Harmon

Laura Harmon came out at a time when being gay felt very political. In 2009, LGBT+ activists were marching to demand equal rights. Coming out was a moment that Harmon says politicised her as she began to fight for her rights.

“I came out when I was 20. I didn’t come out until I was in college, I didn’t come out in school. It was something that I never thought was an option for me. Growing up as a teenager I never would have thought that the option of getting married to a woman would have been something that I could ever have dreamed of.

“Coming out was one of the most defining moments of my life when I came out in UCC and I’ll forever grateful to the LGBT society there and to the community in cork for how supportive they were. Friends that I made at that time are still lifelong friends that I have today.

“But it was certainly a defining moment for me in terms of, you know, accepting myself, accepting who I am, and also a moment that politicised me and really made me think: so many people are not equal in this country, this is not acceptable and we need to fight for our rights and we need start fighting for the rights of others. So that’s really what got me into politics, was through that experience.”

Harmon became the first female President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) for 20 years in 2014. She presided as Ireland prepared to go to the polls to decide if same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. During her year in USI, she led a campaign which saw 30,000 students register to vote.

Since then, Harmon has worked as Head of Mobilisation for the Together for Yes campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment and has worked for the National Women’s Council for three years where she is the ‘Women in Leadership Coordinator’.

A big focus of this job is to promote young women in politics, business and civil society. FemFest is an event which Harmon has organised for a number of years and focuses on giving 16-25 year-old women the chance to develop leadership skills.

Harmon is running for an NUI Senate seat and says that a big passion of hers is about education equality.

“I think that [NUI Senators] should be leading voices around access to education, funding for education and that’s certainly an area as well those that I would love to work on.”

Seanad reform is another key issue for Harmon who campaigned against the abolition of the Seanad back in 2013.

Harmon ran for the Seanad the last time in 2016 and came close to winning a seat. It was her first time running for a national election.

“I got 4,663 votes I came fifth in a 30 candidate race at the time. I’ve learned a lot since then, and I have a great team around me and were hoping to run a very you know dynamic, innovative, campaign.”

As someone who has experienced successful campaigns such as marriage equality and repealing the eighth, if elected, Harmon says her focus will be on a number of key issues for LGBT+ people in Ireland.

“I believe that every citizen should have a vote on the Seanad I think that the Seanad should belong to all citizens. Currently, it’s an elite few that can vote in Seanad elections so it is something I’d like to see opened up, and reformed.

“In terms of the LGBT+ community, one big thing for me would be a sex education system that is inclusive of all identities and sexualities I think that’s something that badly needed in Ireland.

“I think hate crime legislation is an area that I would certainly be in favour of and wish to work on and lend my voice to. Issues around HIV prevention, I believe PrEP should be widely available I think we need more education campaigns around that issue. We need more education for doctors as well.

“Certainly more protections for families and trans rights. I think we need to be doing a lot more in terms of protecting trans equality and ensuring that the trans community have access to the health care that they need in this country and that they don’t have to travel abroad if they wish to have surgery that that is something that we can provide in Ireland.

“We want to really listen to voters, listen to their concerns and get on their and canvas and talk to as many people as possible from now until whenever the election is going to be held I expect sometime within the next six months.”

For more information visit https://www.lauraharmon.ie/

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