WATCH: Statement on LGBTQI+ Rights.

Full Transcript:

We are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality. It is an important milestone to remember how far we have come in many ways. The fact that the disregard of historical offences has taken so long is also a reminder of how far we have yet to go. Like other speakers, I look back to the marriage equality referendum as a moment of hope and optimism when the people of Ireland came together in the name of equality. Things are very different nowadays, unfortunately.

Garda statistics on hate crimes show they are on the rise, including those that target the LGBT+ community. We know for a fact that many hate crimes are not reported or are not reported as hate crimes and, therefore, while Garda statistics show that crimes are rising behind that is a much bigger trend and growing threat. There are an increasing number of violent assaults on our streets against the LGBT community and harassment and intimidation simply for being who you are.

There has been harassment and intimidation of library staff who are simply trying to provide an inclusive service and say that everyone is equal and has a right to be visible. Sometimes that mere visibility is enough to make people angry. We have seen harassment and intimidation of library staff around the country. Library staff have said they are not being fully supported by their councils in this regard.

We have seen a rollback of rights in other European countries. We have seen a rollback on the desire for equality. It feels like we are very far away from the hope of 2015. What message are we sending to the next generation of young people who are questioning their identity or discovering a new identity for themselves?

A study from BeLonG To refers to the average age of young people realising they were LGBT+ as being about 12, but the average age of coming out was about 18. Throughout that time, they are in the years where they know who they are but are not able to talk about that comfortably. Deputy O’Callaghan referred to the joy, smiles, laughter and freedom of coming out. Young people are struggling and are not yet at that point. What message are we sending to them by allowing hate crimes to increase and harassment, intimidation and violence to continue?

About 16% of the LGBT community have attempted suicide compared to 4% for the general population. Self-harm rates are at about 26% versus 8% for the general population. That shows clearly the message we are sending out about equality in this country. It is just not good enough. We have a responsibility as national politicians and legislators, but also as citizens, to face homophobia and stand strong against it and be allies where we need to be.

We need to look at strong concrete action. The passage of hate crime legislation is an important part of that. As the Minister committed to in his speech, we need to examine equality legislation. We need a new inclusion strategy to ensure we are facing the new threats head on. We as legislators and individual citizens should support Pride events. We need to pass the ban on conversion therapy. I welcome the commitment of the Minister to this because it sends a strong message that people are accepted for who they are.

People’s identity is their own and we embrace that. They should be free and safe to embrace that so that the statistics I spoke of earlier do not continue for another generation. This is an area where we have seen regression and greater harassment and intimidation. It is up to all of us to challenge and push back against that whenever we can.