Community celebrates 30 years since decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland at Seanad event

The event hosted by the Seanad included many members of the LGBTQ+ community who played pivotal roles in bringing about decriminalisation.

The photo shows three people, two men and one woman, sitting on chairs to the left of a man standing at a podium. In the background, to the right, sits another woman. Behind them is a display of panels from the Living with Pride exhibition.
Image: Oireachtas Press Office

On Tuesday, December 5, Seanad Éireann commemorated the 30th anniversary of decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland with a special event in Leinster House

The moving event, hosted by the Cathaoirleach, Senator Jerry Buttimer, was attended by members of the LGBTQ+ community and politicians, many of whom had been involved in campaigning for and enacting the momentous legislative change in 1993.

As well as a drinks reception, the event was marked with a series of intimate conversations chaired by LGBTQ+ and disability rights activist Suzy Byrne, who had played a pivotal role while working with GLEN (Gay and Lesbian Equality Network) in lobbying the government in the lead up to decriminalisation.

Following a welcome by Senator Buttimer, Byrne was joined by Senator David Norris, whose legal challenge in the European Court of Human Rights had prompted the government to enact the legislation. 

Senator Norris recounted many comical anecdotes from the early days of the LGBTQ+ rights movement and paid tribute to colleagues who had aided him during his legal campaign, including his former counsel, Mary Robinson and the late activist and close friend Edmund Lynch.

Former Minister for Justice Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, who had passed the 1993 legislation, gave a particularly stirring account of when Phil Moore, founder of Parents Enquiry – a support group for parents of LGBTQ+ people in the 1990s – addressed her as part of a panel of representatives advocating for the bill. 

In what she believed to be a pivotal moment, she recalled how, at the end of several other presentations, Moore began, “Now, Minister, I want to speak to you as one mother to another.” 

From there, Moore went on to describe the challenges her son Dermot and their family faced on account of him being classed as a criminal under the laws preceding decriminalisation. She also implored the Minister to consider how she might feel if one of her children were in a similar situation.


In the final interview, co-founder and former chair of GLEN, Kieran Rose, discussed some of the group’s actions in lobbying the government. He also discussed the crucial role that allyship and solidarity with other civil rights organisations had played, reminding attendees that this need for solidarity should still play a role in the fight against the far-right.

The event also featured a performance from the Dublin Gay Men’s Chorus and an exhibition entitled Living with Pride, featuring the photographs of Christopher Robson.

In his opening address, Senator Buttimer, speaking on behalf of the Seanad, said: “We are honoured to host Brod23/93 to mark the 30th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland. 

“30 years ago, an important step was taken which changed the lives of many people in Ireland. The enactment of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 sought to repeal laws which criminalised and ostracised people because of their sexual orientation.” 

He continued, “These laws caused a great deal of harm and an immeasurable deal of hurt to many people in society.” 

Noting the Bill’s positive change, he said, “We have come a long way over the last thirty years through a combination of efforts that have advanced equality for the LGBTQIA+ community to the point where we can proudly gather in Leinster House.

“This event is an important opportunity to gather to acknowledge and remember the efforts to date and to remind ourselves that hate and prejudice have no place in our societies. Regardless of our sexual orientation, political affiliations or any other criteria, we must continue to ensure the advancement of equality for all of our people.”

He concluded by noting Senator Norris’s retirement from the Seanad next month and thanked him for his “leadership, courage and determination” in bringing about decriminalisation.

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