NUI Galway’s Sean Leen, a professor in the Mechanical and Engineering department, has tweeted anti-LGBT sentiments in response to the Irish national football team’s LGBT themed jerseys. In his tweet, Leen describes marriage equality as immoral, and pleads a case for those who voted no in the 2015 marriage referendum.
To mark the beginning of Pride month, the Irish Soccer team incorporated the rainbow flag into their kits as a statement of support for LGBT+ people. The rainbow colours used in the numbers on each Jersey are a subtle yet significant nod to the community.
The professor tweeted:
This is a disgrace – what about the 1 in 3 people who voted against immorality in the so-called ‘Marriage equality’ referendum? https://t.co/LFJN7ieqt9
— Sean Leen (@sean_leen) June 2, 2018
The tweet has been met with backlash from students and lecturers alike. Lorcán Ó Maoileannaigh, President of the NUIG Student’s Union, responded with a tweet, saying that as an academic member of staff, Leen “undermines every LGBT+ student & staff member of the university and our collective pursuit of equality”.
For an academic staff member of @nuigalway to be making comments like this undermines every LGBT+ student&staff member of the university and our collective pursuit of equality. Let’s look forward not back&show our students that such hate will not be tolerated #prideineverystudent https://t.co/NfzEyYmW62
— Lorcán Ó Maoileannaigh (@LorcanLeFada) June 6, 2018
Eoin Neylon, Údarás na hOllscoile NUI Galway, responded to Leen’s tweet, saying:
This is a disgraceful comment to make, especially in light of the university’s policy of supporting minorities and being a tolerant, inclusive space. You know many of the people you teach are of the LGBT community, yes?
— Eoin Neylon (@eoinneylon) June 6, 2018
In recent years, NUI Galway has made steps towards gender-inclusivity, introducing gender neutral bathrooms in 2016 and maintaining an LGBT+ network for university staff. Earlier this year, the university was awarded the bronze level Athena Swan Award for gender equality, recognising that their demonstration of “a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff.”
Sineád Ruane, chairperson of GiGSoc, NUI Galway’s LGBT+ society, told GCN:
As chairperson of GiGSoc the past two years these comments highlight the need for lgbt spaces in universities. It’s unfortunate that these views are still expressed and I hope students of NUIG feel safe to be their true selves both inside and outside the lecture halls. Regardless of people’s beliefs, it’s important to value everyone for who they are. There is still a long way to go with regards to educating people about why pride is important and what the pride flag means to the community.
NUI Galway have yet to release a statement on the professor’s tweet.
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