President Michael D Higgins has said that we all need to move beyond divisive sexual politics and begin tackling the gender and minority issues with more respect.
Delivering the Sixth Annual Harri Holkeri Lecture at Queen’s University he said, “We have to get gender issues right. We have to pay attention to sex education so people of different genders and fluid genders can look forward to living.”
The President said that he had always framed issues around sexual and gender rights as issues of right and wrong. Remembering the recent Irish past where gay people emigrated to escape the harsh homophobic climate, criminalisation and social opprobrium he said “we have to move on”
“The fact of the matter is we can be decent people treating and respecting each other’s rights this minute if we feel like it.
He also expressed dissatisfaction with United Nations’ ambition of 2030 as a target for the eradication of violence against women and girls, “I think we shouldn’t have to wait an hour for that, not speaking of a decade and a half,” he said.
Another area the President touched on during the lecture was the erasure of the contribution made by minorities, particularly women, to major historical events which shaped the history of the state particularly the erasure of women who fought in the revolutionary struggle for independence against Britain
Saying how important it was “to restore the contribution of women of the revolutionary generation to their rightful place in history” Whether “This included women who sought full independence, some who sought it within Home Rule, some who were pacifists, but all sharing the same road that beckoned – full equality for women. It is a journey that is of course not yet finished”.
The central themes of his speech were remembering, forgiving and imagining. The speech is part of the Harri Holkeri Series which celebrates the contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process made by the late Finnish prime minister.
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