Dublin: ‘Lesbians Organizing Together’ drop-in centre where gay people can report homophobic crimes
5 Capel St (Mon-Thurs 10am-6pm, Fri 10am-4pm; tel 872 7770)
(Note: As of January 2006, the Rainbow Project is still alive.)
28 April 2005
It’s the Rainbow’s end, fear gay campaigners–End of funding puts city project at risk
by Brendan McDaid
A leading gay rights organisation looks set to close within weeks after running out of funding, it can be revealed today.
The shock announcement by the Rainbow Project – founded in Londonderry 11 years ago – comes after funding for the project completely dried up three weeks ago.
For the past three weeks the centre has been running on private donations. Founder of the project Sean Morrin and manager David McCartney revealed the situation after gathering Derry’s gay community for a question and answer session with Foyle Westminster candidates. Socialist Environmental Alliance candidate Eamon McCann, Mayor Gearoid O’hEara, (representing Mitchel McLaughlin), Mark Durkan and SDLP council candidate Colm Eastwood faced a grilling over their parties’ stance on gay rights issues at the City Hotel.
Announcing the imminent threat, Mr McCartney said the organisation was hoping that the Western Health Board could provide funding. He said: "We have been in contact with a number of funding bodies and we are getting comments that are not giving us a great deal of hope. " We are now less than a month away from closure." Mr Morrin added: "This is a crisis situation now that will have major implications for sexual and mental health services outside of Belfast. " Research that we have conducted shows that gay and bisexual young people in Northern Ireland aged between 16 and 25 are five times more likely to be medicated for depression. "In the same age group, 29% have also attempted suicide."
The Rainbow Project was established in 1994 by a group of volunteers concerned about the spread of HIV within the gay male population of Northern Ireland. The group had been funded by a combination of Government sources, the Elton John Aids Foundation, private donations and fundraising. The project provides education and training to the gay community, as well as voluntary and statutory agencies across Northern Ireland. Staff have also undertaken joint protocol projects with the PSNI and other bodies. Last year the group successfully lobbied for the extension of the Civil Rights Partnership Bill to Northern Ireland. Foyle candidates said they were taken aback by the threat now facing the Rainbow Project. Sinn Fein’s Gearoid O’hEara said: "I didn’t realise the Rainbow Project was that strapped.
" This is a very important service for the gay community and I am happy to convene a meeting with the Western Health Board and bring in some politicians at the Mayor’s Office." Eamon McCann and Colm Eastwood have also pledged to campaign to keep the project open.
10 May 2005
launch of Alternative Parents Ireland new website
We are pleased to announce the launch of Alternative Parents Ireland new website: www.alternativeparents.com which has a mailing list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/alternativeparentsireland/ or it can be accessed from the home.
API is both a factual and humanistic information site for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered couples/singles in Ireland who are planning/have had children though AI,SI,IVF or from a heterosexual relationship.
13 June 2005
Irish President slams homophobic bullying
by Ben Townley
Ireland’s President has pointedly slammed homophobia whilst speaking at an event held in Londonderry, the centre of recent violent gay attacks. Speaking at an anniversary event for a school in the Northern Ireland city, Mary McAleese repeatedly drew attention to homophobia, and subsequently the rise of anti-gay attacks in the region.
According to The Times, McAleese denounced bullying in her speech, but did not shy away from the issue of homophobia in the playground. She said that young people should stand up against "sexist, racist, sectarian or homophobic jibes" in the playground.
"Do they stay silent and let the poison of contempt go on its cruel way, or do they have the guts to stop it in its tracks and say such words are unacceptable and dangerous?" the newspaper reports her as saying. Derry’s attacks have seen an increase in recent months, although campaigners believe the anti-gay violence is reflected across Northern Ireland.
However, in Derry the ferocity of the attacks has been noted, with some gay man stabbed or beaten because of their sexuality.
Despite facing a lack of funding, campaigning group the Rainbow Project has been working with community representatives to establish solutions to the problem. The group’s Sean Morrin told the newspaper that the President’s comments were "highly significant" in light of the recent attacks.
5 July 2005
Tensions rise over Belfast Pride
by Ben Townley, Gay.com UK
Tensions between Belfast’s gay community and religious leaders continued to rise today ahead of next month’s Pride parade.
Members of the city’s religious community have called the planned parade a "direct assault on the rights" of the city’s residents.
The comments come after the organisers were reported to the Parades Commission, an independent body established to soothe tensions around religious marches, in a bid to have the event cancelled.
Religious groups including the Baptist and Free Presbyterian Churches say the Pride event is divisive and goes against "the Bible’s teaching". They plan to hold protests on August 6th, when the parade takes place. Presbyterian Minister Ian Brown told the Belfast Telegraph that he was against the gay community being able to "swear, stamp their feet, foam a the mouth and shower all types of invective upon us".
"It has become tiresome to listen to homosexual spokespersons who take up positions behind the thin veneer of ‘the oppressed’ and bleat for the sympathy vote," he added. "Has it not occurred to them that parents have a right to take their children to the shops without having a base display of vulgarity and vileness played out before their faces?"
The Rainbow Project’s Sean Morrin said the organisers were committed to ensuring the event would take place. "It comes as no surprise that certain religious groups are again trying to enforce the supremacy of their views on others," he said. The Belfast parade has faced rising opposition in recent years. Last year’s Pride event was threatened with religious protests, some of which turned violent on the day. However, the high profile opposition led to the number of those participating in the event tripling.
July 25, 2005
5 Gay woman has been forced to leave her home under threats from vandals
A gay woman has been forced to leave her home, after coming under relentless attacks because of her sexuality in Northern Ireland. Ashley Stinson has had her window smashed and her rubbish bin set on fire by local thugs. Additionally, cars belonging to her friends have been vandalised while outside her home in Dhu Varren, Portrush. She says that she can no longer take the level of abuse, which she believes is sparked by homophobia. She told the BBC that the attitudes that led to the attackers are archaic and “disgraceful”.
"Ignorance, I would say, is a big part of it. If anybody is slightly different, people are afraid of them," she said. "I thought: ‘That’s enough I’m going to get out of here now’.”
The details of the attack come as Northern Ireland continue to be the focus of attention because of its apparent rise in homophobia. Earlier this month, a gay man in Derry said he lived in fear after he received death threats from local people.
In the past 12 months, attacks have ranged from verbal abuse, to stabbings and beatings. Police have admitted the number of attacks are increasing. Local campaigners are calling for more community-led action from across the region to stamp out homophobia.
29 July 2005
Good news from Belfast Pride–parade approved
The PRIDE parade can go ahead as planned on August 6th. Thanks to all the ILGA members who sent messages from around the world to The Parades Commission in Northern Ireland. The parade has been approved by this authority to go ahead as scheduled and without any restriction. PRIDE parades have been held in Belfast city centre for the past 14 years. Christian groups called for the parade to be banned this year and the police passed the matter on to the Parades Commission who rule on ‘sectarian’ and ‘contentious’ demonstrations and parades in Northern Ireland.
Amnesty International said the march should be given the go-ahead. "Prejudice against people based on their sexuality is, sadly, all too common in Northern Ireland and around the world," said Amnesty International’s NI Programme Director Patrick Corrigan. "Politicians, church leaders and ordinary people all have an obligation to stand up against such prejudice and stand in solidarity with gay people here and worldwide who face persecution and violence.
GLEN ~ Gay and Lesbian Equality Network
Fumbally Court, Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8, Ireland
Tel: +353 1 4730563 [office] & +353 87 6798041 [mobile]
Web: www.glen.ie E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Working for Equality for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People in Ireland
06 August 2005
Belfast’s annual Gay Pride parade takes place today
by Deborah Dundas
Topping a week of events – including a fashion show and ball – the parade is the highlight of the Pride celebrations. It’s also a chance for supporters and detractors alike to voice their opinion. Twelve floats and at least 3,000 people are expected to attend – with protesters expected to gather at City Hall. This year hasn’t been without controversy. Police asked the Parades Commission to rule on the parade after concerns were raised by some Christian groups that the parade was encouraging a "sinful lifestyle". Late last week, the Parades Commission ruled that the parade can go ahead.
Sally Young, co-chair, Belfast Pride Committee: "Pride Week is a celebration; it’s acceptance and I think, now, it’s about feeling connected. I always wanted to be involved in Pride. Since I’ve been working on it I’ve been making new contacts and friends, and it’s given me a sense of belonging. It’s also given me a support network. Plus, I love to dress up and have a party! Belfast Pride is drawing more people internationally. Last year there were people from across the UK, Ireland, Germany, the United States, Canada, and more. In the past a lot of people would have left Northern Ireland because of their sexuality. Now people don’t feel as threatened. These days, there are lots more support groups for young gay people. When I was younger – I’m 35 now, originally from Carrickfergus – there weren’t those kinds of groups.
"More businesses and organizations are putting floats in the parade. Last year there were six, this year there will be 12. There’s an informal competition to see whose float is the best – and the loudest! Over the last three years, the parade has taken on a carnival atmosphere. In the past it was more political.
"I work at the Masque Project, which is part of New Belfast, a community arts organization. One of our groups is the Pride group, but we work with all different backgrounds. One group of young people designs fashions. We’re always looking for places to hold fashion shows so they can show off their designs. Pride organized Kube (now known as Mynt) as a venue. It’s a gay bar; and we let the parents and community leaders know it was a gay bar. Everyone was fine with it and had a great time. When I think about the positive community relations that developed, I think it’s great.
"I work with kids and young people. I find it insulting for people to say that we’re perverts when what I do for a living is provide child protection. I think the attitude comes from fear and ignorance – it’s prejudice. Some people, even within the gay community, say that Pride is too stereotyped with drag queens and so on. But the gay community is multi-faceted. And people need to get involved for it to be inclusive. If you want to join the Pride Committee, then do. Everyone has something to offer."
Stephen Bruce, fashion show co-ordinator: "Acceptance is a big thing in my life. I’ve been "out" for six years now; I’m 21 years old, originally from Belfast. When I came out, I told a friend, and she told her mother, who told my family. Certain members of my family didn’t accept it, but most did. My brother will come to the parade with his girlfriend and my niece. I also have family and friends cutting their holidays short to come out and support Pride.
"It’s a political statement to show people we’re human beings and deserve the same rights as everyone else. Love is a human right and people shouldn’t be disgraced or ashamed. A lot of straight people are supporting us; all of the big unions are coming out, Amnesty International. I see the Pride parade as a day to celebrate who you are, to be who you want to be. We’ll always get abuse – get called queer or freak – but that doesn’t bother me.
"Gay Pride Week really depends on volunteers. It’s funded by the community; we do fundraising events. We get a bit of money from City Council and Laganside, but the work the volunteers do is what makes it. Taking part in last year’s parade, I have never been so uplifted and happy, seeing all those people out to support us, people with their kids on their shoulders, clapping. I felt accepted.It’s not about saying "we’re gay and we’re here". I don’t want to be a screaming "poof". I want people to know we are a community, and God does love us. I wouldn’t say I am a strong Christian, but people shouldn’t be beaten or ejected from their homes or petrol bombed just because they’re gay.
"I’m not ashamed of who I am and I won’t hide in a cupboard. When I first came out, one of my brother’s friends found out and phoned him up at three in the morning to tell him about it. My brother said he was proud of who I am. It annoys me that people see all gay people as drag queens. Businesses who think that if they advertise that they’re handing out fake tan for free and holding a Kylie Mynogue night, we’re all going to come running. They’re so busy chasing the "pink pound". But I have a normal life, an office job (I’m an administrator at a ferry company), straight friends. I don’t always go out to gay night clubs.
"I have friends and family in the PSNI, and it’s great to see them supporting the gay community. They may not be marching, but they’re supporting us. If we phone in a complaint of abuse, they respond. I’d like to see those police officers who are gay joining us some day. When I walk down the streets of Belfast now, I know there are lots of people like me walking in the same streets. There is change happening with my generation. Our parents tend to be fine with our sexuality and support us. "My mother’s legacy to me was never judge someone, whether they’re Catholic, Protestant, black or white. I was brought up to be me and to accept others for who they are. We need more people like that in life."
1 September 2005
Gay couples win right to adopt child under new equality ruling
The Attorney General has cleared the way for homosexuals living in this country to adopt children. A new interpretation of the Adoption Act by the Office of the Attorney General makes it clear that social workers can permit either homosexuals or heterosexuals, cohabiting or single, to be considered as adoptive parents. The Adoption Board, which must ultimately approve all adoption applications, has confirmed to the Irish Independent that single people are permitted to apply to adopt even if they are living with someone else – although the law permits only married couples to apply for adoption as a couple.
In effect, the interpretation clears the way for cohabiting couples, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual, to apply to adopt a child, so long as they do not make the application together. The ruling also means that any person living alone – gay or heterosexual – can apply for adoption. Anyone wishing to adopt a child either from Ireland or from overseas must be assessed by the health authorities and approved by the Adoption Board. The relevant interpretation of the Adoption Act was communicated to the Adoption Board by the Attorney General within the past year, the board said.
Already three individuals living in homosexual relationships have applied to their local health boards for permission to adopt from abroad, a report in this week’s Irish Catholic claims. The Registrar of the Adoption Board, Kiernan Gildea, said that the interpretation from the Attorney General means a single person can be assessed for adoption regardless of whether they are living with someone – the person they are living with could be a parent, or simply a friend.
He admitted it was possible the board has already approved individuals for adoption who are in homosexual relationships; but if so, this had not been brought to their attention in any of the assessment reports sent to them for final approval. Mr Gildea would only say that 66 "sole applicants" have been approved for adoption over the past 13 years. He added that the board strove to comply with all relevant equality legislation in assessing individuals for suitability to adopt. According to The Irish Catholic, a social worker with the Inter-country Adoption Service for the eastern region confirmed to it that a lesbian couple was currently being assessed for adoption.
She said: "There is nothing to stop a gay couple from applying to adopt. A lesbian couple have already applied to adopt a child and their application is quite far ahead at this point in time. As of yet, there has been no declaration by the Adoption Board. It won’t take a lot longer and should come quickly."
The advice from the Attorney General clearly implies that a single person can be assessed even when they are living with someone else when it states: "In the case of a single applicant, the board must be satisfied that the statutory criteria are met in relation to that applicant . . . it follows then that the assessment should be of the applicant and not of another person who is not, and who cannot by law be a co-applicant."
It then stipulates that where the sole applicant is living with another person, this fact should not be ignored.
"In many cases it might well be necessary to carry out a proper assessment of the applicant, eg where it is clear that the partner will be carrying out a considerable portion of caring for the child." A spokesperson for the Health Service Executive also confirmed last night that homosexuals can apply for adoption.
David Quinn is a Religious and Social Affairs Correspondent
October 14, 2005
Derry to host first ever gay marriage in Ireland and UK
Ireland’s first-ever gay marriage is reportedly due to take place in Derry before the end of this year. Reports this morning said the marriage would take place under British laws legalising same-sex unions that are due to come into force in December. Derry’s registrar of births, marriages and deaths has reportedly confirmed that he has already received one booking for a marriage under the new law, as well as a number of other inquiries.
28 November 2005
Northern Ireland Council Allows Gay Ceremonies
Lisburn council has announced a u-turn in its ban on civil partnerships and will allow same-sex couples to hold their ceremonies in the council’s official wedding room. The move comes after the Northern Irish council refused to allow lesbian and gay couples to use the room when new laws come into force in December. Authorities said that, while they would allow same-sex couples to hold civil partnerships, if they allowed access to the formal wedding room they would be undermining traditional marriage. However, according to press reports, the council has now changed its mind after consulting legal experts who warned the council could face legal action.
Campaigners were already threatening to take the council to court over the issue if they refused access and had protested the policy since it became known earlier this year. The whole council met last week to debate the issue.
Although some have warned that barring use of the Cherry Room would amount to discrimination, some councillors said they feared the usage would be “detrimental” to society. "If you attack the nucleus of society namely the family and family values, what’s left?" Alliance Party councillor Seamus Close told the BBC. "Where do we go from there, if we allow young people to believe or to think that having two mummies or two daddies is the norm in our society?"
His remarks have been slammed by gay groups and other party representatives, including those from Sinn Fein and the SDLP.
A similar decision was made in Bromley, London over the summer, after the capital’s Mayor threatened legal action against the borough’s council when it said it would bar ceremonies. The council voted to allow civil partnership celebrations to take place after it was faced with the threat and protests from activists in the region.
19 December 2005
Civil partnerships hit Northern Ireland
by Ben Townley
The spread of civil partnerships across the country begins today, with the first ceremonies taking place in Northern Ireland.
Three same-sex couples are expected to hold ceremonies in Belfast, making them among the first in the country to become civil partners. Around 20 couples have provisionally booked to hold their ceremonies in the city. The first couple to exchange vows were Shannon Sickless and Grainne Close, who were scheduled to have their ceremony at 10am in Belfast City Hall. Supporters of the new laws waited for the couple outside the civic building to cheer and celebrate their relationship.
However, opponents were also outside. Many said their religious beliefs meant they were opposed to the new laws. But Ms Sickles said the new laws were about “protection” for each other. "For us, this is about making a choice to have our civil rights acknowledged, and respected and protected as any human being,” she told reporters. "This is for all the people who went before us and all the people who want to come after us – this is for protection."
That the first ceremonies will take place in the province is particularly important, since opponents of the laws had long campaigned for Northern Ireland to be exempted from civil partnerships. A minority of politicians representing the region argued that there were no lesbian and gay couples in Northern Ireland and that the laws would be wasted in the region. Additionally, the area has been hitting the headlines for an apparent rise in violent attacks targeted at gay men and women and for the annual Stop the Parade march against Pride celebrations.
Lisburn council also proposed banning the use of civic buildings used for marriage for civil partnerships purposes. It decided not to in late November. Campaigners believe the civil partnerships will help raise the profile of lesbian and gay people in the province and subsequently tackle anti-gay sentiment. Civil partnerships will reach Scotland tomorrow, with the first ceremonies in England and Wales taking place on Wednesday. Some couples have been given special dispensation to hold their own ceremonies due to sickness ahead of the official launch.
11 February 2006
Derry Gay Crime Posters Condemned
Derry’s Rainbow Project have condemned the appearance of posters throughout the town encouraging the city’s gay population to stand up for themselves against homophobic hate crime.
The hand-drawn posters have been pasted anonymously in several locations, and come in the wake of a recent incident in which a gay man lost an eye during an attack in the city centre when walking home after a night out. The posters have been condemned by Derry’s Rainbow Project as they appear to incite violence and retaliation against homophobic attacks. Sean Morrin, Project Officer for the Rainbow Project, said he was very concerned about the appearance of the posters and was trying to establish their source. "I haven’t a clue where these posters have come from, but there is a possibility that they could incite violence and we at the Rainbow Project would never support that," he said.
7 March, 2006
New gay magazine-Icon– launches in Northern Ireland
The first magazine to target lesbian and gay people in Northern Ireland will be officially launched in Belfast tonight.
Icon is thought to be the first magazine to focus solely on the gay community and scene in the province, and is thought to be a result of the ever expanding range of gay services and clubs available. As well as articles on the Belfast Film Festival and interviews with celebrities, the first issue of the magazine will also feature articles from noted campaigners in the province, including the Rainbow Project’s Sean Morrin and PA Mag Lochlainn. The team behind the magazine say they hope it will offer information, guidance and support to lesbians and gay people in Ulster, claiming the province is usually overlooked by both the British and Irish press.
“We recognised that local people like local information, be it on pubs, clubs, fashion or music and that the established publications were not meeting this clearly lacking demand – despite claiming to,” the editorial team says about the new publication. For years we’ve been in the shadows with features on Dublin or the mainland taking the spotlight but not for much longer.” The magazine will be distributed in bars and clubs, following the same vein as similar publications in British and Irish cities.
28 March 2006
Northern Ireland Conference on Gay Suicide
According to a new three-year research project, one quarter of young gay or bisexual men in Northern Ireland have attempted suicide, thirty percent have self harmed and over two thirds of the respondents have considered suicide. A mental health research entitled ‘Out on Your Own’ was conducted by The Rainbow Project and will be launched at a major national conference at the Hilton Hotel, Belfast tomorrow. The conference will be opened by the Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland Mr Bob Collins.
190 young men aged 25 and under, from all over Northern Ireland took part in the survey. 16 young men also took part in face-to-face interviews to describe their experiences. The research illustrates that homophobic attitudes and prevailing heterosexism in Northern Irish society, together with the isolation that being non-heterosexual may bring, play a major part in the incidence of emotional and mental health difficulties, suicidal ideation and self-harm in this population. The research report also calls for specific Government funding and recommends that the Department of Education ensures that gay and bisexual students are provided with full protection and education.
The Rainbow Project plans to follow up the research findings with a range of support initiatives for young men but the organisation is not receiving sufficient funding to enable such work to continue. Author of the research Helen McNamee said: “It is imperative the recommendations of this report are taken on board and that the mental health needs of young gay and bisexual men are addressed by everyone who works with young people.
April 3, 2006
Republic of Ireland Backs Legalizing Gay Partnerships
Dublin, Ireland – Ireland will legalize civil partnerships for gay couples, Prime Minister Bertie Ahern pledged Monday as he opened new offices for the country’s main gay rights group. Civil partnerships allow gay couples the same rights to inheritance, state benefits and other financial rights as held by married heterosexual couples. "Sexual orientation cannot, and must not, be the basis of a second-class citizenship. Our laws have changed, and will continue to change, to reflect this principle," Ahern told an audience at Ireland’s Gay and Lesbian Equality Network.
Ahern said it would be more difficult to legalize gay marriage in Ireland than it was in the United Kingdom, which approved the civil unions in December. Ireland’s constitution has a clause requiring the predominantly Roman Catholic state to protect the institution of marriage, whereas the UK, which includes neighboring Northern Ireland, has no written constitution.
"This challenge, however, is one that the government is determined to meet. We are committed to legislating on this issue," said Ahern, who noted that a government-appointed group of experts would recommend several possible options in a report expected in November. "Although there is a growing climate of equality and support for anti-discrimination action, I also recognize that members of the gay community still face isolation, abuse and victimization on the basis of their sexuality," Ahern said.
01 May 2006 to 14 May 2006
Third International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival
Running in 12 Dublin City Venues!
The third International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival brings an exciting line-up of World Premieres, European and Irish Premieres, Five Edinburgh Festival Smash hits. All genres of theatre are explored at this Dublin Gay Theatre festival. Highlights of this Dublin Theatre Festival include productions from across the globe with performers from three continents performing. Late Night Revues and a Nightly Festival After-Show Club, a seminar and exhibition enhance this smorgasbord of Dublin theatrical delights.
The International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival will present a choice selection of Double Bills including Christine Jorgensen Reveals from New York and All Alone from London at the Project Arts Centre. The International Comedy Theatre Shorts includes a Double Bill of premieres from London. Minor Irritations from London and Don’t Call Me Baby will be performed at the Teachers Club in Parnell Square. Direct from Chicago, the European Premiere of Oh Holy Allen Ginsberg will be presented at Andrews Lane Theatre. The Cobalt Café Music Venue will provide delightful nights of cabaret and an international theatre seminar will take place at the Samuel Beckett Theatre.
The International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival is a varied affair with a high standard of theatre on offer. The first ever Live Gay Soap Opera , Gay and Confused will play at the George for the three weeks during the festival.__Brian Merriman, founder and Artistic Director, launched the festival by saying "The Festival is inclusive, accessible and great value. Men, women, regardless of their sexual orientation are taking part. Young people are. Older people are. The audience is local, national and international. Difference enriches us. With this third festival we seek to build bridges between Irish and international theatre practitioners and locally between gay people and mainstream audiences".
June 22, 2006
Gang targeting gay men in Dublin city centre
Gardaí in Dublin have issued a warning about a seven-strong gang that has been targeting gay men in the city centre in a string of assaults and robberies. They say a gang of five men and two women aged between 15 and 18 years have been targeting gay men for some time. They often engage the victims in a friendly manner before attacking them.
Gardaí say they are confident the gang will be arrested soon, but are advising members of the gay community to be careful. The warning was issued at the official opening of a new drop-in centre where gay people can report homophobic crimes. (‘Lesbians Organizing Together’ drop-in centre, 5 Capel St (Mon-Thurs 10am-6pm, Fri 10am-4pm; tel 872 7770).
The garda project will be piloted in Dublin for a year before being rolled out nationally if it proves a success. It will allow victims to report hate crimes against homosexuals and will also offer advice on crime prevention and other issues. A recent survey found that around 40% of gay people have been assaulted, but less than one-fifth of these reported the attack to the Gardaí.
July 27, 2006
Plans to end gay discrimination
Government plans to end discrimination based on sexual orientation in NI have been praised by gay and lesbian groups. Anti-discrimination legislation is already in place, but the goods and services proposals up for an eight-week consultation would close a loophole. They include measures to prevent gays or lesbians being turned away from hotels or being denied house tenancies. NI Secretary Peter Hain said everybody must enjoy "the same access to goods, facilities, services and education". Mr Hain said fresh financial backing was also planned for organisations who support the gay community.
"The government’s vision is for a fair society founded on equal opportunities for all, respect for the dignity and worth of each person and mutual respect between communities. It is another small step towards ensuring that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people are equal and valued citizens in a modern Northern Irish society James Knox Coalition on Sexual Orientation: "Since 1997, this government has taken steps UK-wide to achieve that goal and these new proposals are a further step along that road."
Similar proposals on goods and services are currently being consulted on in Great Britain. A draft sexual orientation strategy is also being published, with responses studied over the next 12 weeks. Mr Hain said the government had "worked closely with the sector to produce the strategy which endorses government’s commitment to ensuring equality of opportunity for lesbian, gay and bisexual people". He added: "Through its three-year action plan, we will tackle issues of concern such as health and suicide, as well as education issues and homophobic bullying."
Coalition on Sexual Orientation spokesman James Knox said the proposals were "another small step towards ensuring that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people are equal and valued citizens in a modern Northern Irish society".
29 July 2006
Ulster says ‘yes’ to gay people: Survey shows more tolerance than before
by Emily Moulton
People in Northern Ireland are more accepting of the gay community, according to a new survey released yesterday. Commissioned by the Lesbian Advocacy Services Infinitive, it found 75% of those questioned were very accepting of gay people, dispelling the myth that Northern Irish society was intolerant. Almost 90% believed lesbian, gay or bisexual individuals should not be discriminated against and supported changes to current legislation. Currently it is still legal in the UK for businesses such as B&Bs and pubs to refuse service to members of the gay community. However, this is set to change with the introduction of the Goods, Facilities and Services legislation later this year.
Lesbian Advocacy Services co-ordinator Rita Wild said the organisation commissioned the survey to dispel the myth that Northern Irish people were intolerant of the gay community. "The research confirms what we have suspected for some time – that the media coverage in Northern Ireland of LGB issues, such as civil partnerships, is giving the entirely wrong impression of our society," she said. "Yes, we have anti-gay lobbies but they really don’t represent the views of most people in Northern Ireland. In fact, they’re not even close."
Of 1,009 people interviewed by Ipsos MORI, 59% shared the perception that Northern Ireland was intolerant but only 21% of those surveyed actually were. Younger people were more likely to be more accepting compared to older generations and those who were not tolerant came from specific demographic and geographical areas. The release of the survey, the first of its kind commissioned in Northern Ireland, coincides with the start of this year’s Belfast Pride Festival. The week-long event, which kicks off tonight at the Waterfront Hall, celebrates the history, courage, diversity and future of Belfast’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. It features activities such as photographic exhibitions, debates, competitions and culminates in the Belfast Pride Parade next Saturday.
Thousands attend Gay Pride march
Thousands of people have taken part in a gay rights parade in Belfast. It was the 16th year of the annual Belfast Pride march which received public funding this year.
The Parades Commission did not impose any restrictions on the march. Members of the Free Presbyterian Church turned their backs as the parade passed.
One of the event’s organisers, Andrew Clarke, said: "The absence of protest in Belfast is indicative of public opinion." He reckoned up to 6,500 people attended the event in the city centre. "The amount of floats on the parade and the public support has been absolutely amazing," he said. "It’s colourful, it’s a festival parade, it’s fun."
However, Reverend David McIlveen, of the Free Presbyterian Church, said: "These people are flaunting their sexuality in a way that we deem is unacceptable and contrary to the teaching of the Bible. "Therefore it is our responsibility to point that out to them." Speaking last month, the chairman of the Parades Commission, Roger Poole, said the march was "a welcome addition" and "a colourful and positive celebration of all lifestyles which co-exist in the city".
05 August 2006
Dublin Gay Film Festival Rejects Israeli Sponsorship
The repercussions of the conflict in the Middle East are well documented, but one unexpected consequence emerged this week when the Irish Film Institute (IFI) cancelled sponsorship from the Israeli Embassy at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. The Festival screened Walk on Water yesterday, a film about a Mossad agent who befriends the gay son of a former Nazi officer who he is searching for. IFI Director Mark Mulqueen, informed the Israeli Embassy in Ireland earlier this week said he didn’t want the film to be associated with the current crisis, the statement read, "The decision is taken in light of the current activities of the Israeli government and prompted by the performance of your Ambassador in explaining these acts to the Irish public.
“It is important for us to separate the screening of an Israeli feature film from activities of the Israeli government. In allowing the screening to go ahead, this is not an act of artistic censorship, something we would be loath to do.” LookOut!: The 14th Dublin Lesbian & Gay Film Festival runs at the IFI until Monday August 6. For more information visit www.dlgff.ie
22 August, 2006
‘Carry on’ gay cruisers upset Mayor
The Police Service of Northern Ireland have fingered two of Belfast’s most popular tourists attractions as gay cruising grounds, reports Daily Ireland. Police chiefs have claimed they are being forced to deal with “numerous and continuous calls” about “indecent behaviour and criminal activity of a sexual nature” in the Shaws Bridge and rather appropriately named Giant’s Ring areas. The parkland areas, on the edges of south Belfast, are two of the city’s top nature attractions. They are visited by thousands of locals and tourists each year. Belfast Lord Mayor Pat McCarthy, who has led a high-profile campaign against vice and illegal sex, said: “Shaws Bridge and the Giant’s Ring are beauty spots visited by families and people who walk their dogs.
“Members of the public should be entitled to visit these places without being subjected to people having a carry on.” Like many gay cruising grounds, there is a double-edged sword linked to publicising their existence. The story of al-fresco gay sex destinations seems to follow the same formula whether it’s in Belfast, Brighton or Streatham Common. Initially, cruising grounds become popular through the whispering gay grapevine. Hearsay and rumours are soon replaced by geographical facts, advice and directions supplied by a gay website. Local publications get wind of the supposed gay sex party occurring on their doorstep and use front page indignation to to whip up a scandal. The net result of such negative publicity is that the area soon becomes a magnet for marauding teenagers looking to rob or assault the cruisers.
In Belfast, both the Giant’s Ring and Shaws Bridge have been named as meeting places on gay websites. They have also been the scene for violent homophobic attacks on male couples. Six years ago two south Belfast teenagers were sentenced to 240 hours community service for a homophobic attack near Shaws Bridge. Gary Kelly (17), admitted causing grievous bodily harm to a male couple, while 18-year-old Craig Morgan pleaded guilty to assault and possessing an offensive weapon.
August 28, 2006
Sligo Gay and Lesbian Parade to become annual event
A Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Parade is to become an annual event in Sligo. The first LGBT parade in the town on Saturday was attended by about 70 people. It was organised to highlight such people in the Northwest and to prove they are ordinary human beings. It was opened by Sligo Labour councillor Declan Bree. One of the organisers Hayley Fox Roberts, says the response to the parade exceeded their expectations.
September 08, 2006
Dublin: Out, Proud, Young
Ireland’s gay magazine, GCN, short for Gay Community News, last week celebrated publication of its 200th issue—with a new edition of the magazine entirely edited and written by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered teenagers These teens proclaimed they “want to use this month’s issue of GCN to claim a piece of rightful territory—our existence in schools all over the country,” in the words of 18-year-old Kevin Gaffney, who served as chief editor on the project.
It is something of a milestone marking the explosion of Ireland’s out-of-the-closet gay community to have a group of out teens with enough self-confidence and maturity in their identities to take charge of an entire issue of an established publication.
Homosexuality was still illegal in Ireland when GCN, which today has a circulation of some 11,500 and an estimated readership of triple that figure, first began publishing in 1988.
For those of us who grew up with the legendary sexual repression of Ireland’s traditional, extraordinarily austere and strict Catholic culture—the stuff of countless plays and novels—imprinted, as it were, on our inherited cultural DNA, and even transmitted across the Atlantic, the gay teen issue of the magazine is a stunning sign of progress.
“ When it was first published, GCN was an underground freesheet that was delivered to gay bars in anonymous brown packaging for fear those bars would be identified as queer,” said the magazine’s regular editor-in-chief, Brian Finnegan. “One of our contributors to this issue is 15 and out as gay in his school. This issue is something that would have been unheard of when I was a teenager.”
Openly gay Irish Senator David Norris called the all-teen issue of the gay magazine “tremendously important and historic.” Speaking to Gay City News by telephone from Cyprus, where he was on vacation, Norris said, “It’s particularly relevant in view of the recent debate on lowering the age of consent in Ireland,” which is now set at 17.
Norris emphasized that coming out can still be a risky business in Ireland.
“ There is a terrifying epidemic of anti-gay bullying in the schools, and nothing is being done” by the government, he said. “Ninety percent of all school bullying incidents have some foundation around homophobia, and 90 percent of those incidents go unpunished or acted upon by school authorities.”
Norris explained that “teachers are frightened to do anything about the anti-gay bullying and harassment because schools are controlled by the Catholic Church—which sought exemptions from Ireland’s equality legislation so they could be free to fire people on the basis of lifestyles. And homophobia in schools is behind the extraordinary rate of teen suicides” in Ireland.
The gay teen’s issue of GCN was produced by members of the Dublin-based gay youth group BeLonG To
which was launched in 2003 through the concerted efforts of a raft of Irish groups, including OUTHouse (the Dublin LGBT cultural center), OutYouth, Gay Men’s Health Project, HIV Strategies, Gay Switchboard Dublin, Parents’ Support, Union of Students of Ireland, and the National Lesbian and Gay Federation. The City of Dublin Youth Services Board also provided support.
A poll of BeLonG To’s members taken for the magazine underscored Norris’s comments—67 percent of the gay youth polled said that schools did nothing about homophobic bullying; 93 percent said schools failed to educate pupils “fairly and clearly” about homosexuality; 69 percent said they would not feel safe holding hands in the street with their partner; 69 percent said they’d been subjected to verbal harassment; 48 percent said that harassment took place in school; and 10 percent said they’d been subjected to physical violence.
A collective manifesto written by the gay teens for the magazine notes that, “In a report carried out by the Department of Education in Northern Ireland it was found that 86 percent of young people were aware of their sexual orientation while at school, with boys realizing they were gay at 12 and girls at 13.”
And, said the kids’ manifesto, despite the continuing problems, “By and large things have changed enormously for young gay people. At BeLonG To, the Dublin LGBT youth group, we get teenagers as young as 13 coming through the door and the numbers have increased so greatly, we have divided into two groups, one catering to the under-16s, with another for 17-24 year-olds. Many of the teenagers in BeLonG To feel a sense of self-empowerment that older people, even people in their late 20s comment on and are encouraged by.”
Gay youth are not coming out only in Dublin—the magazine interviewed teenage members of groups in other parts of the country, like Young Outcomers in Dundalk, SPHERE in Wexford, and UNITE and Rainbow Chicks in Cork.
Another sign of the changed atmosphere—the magazine carried a half-page recruiting ad from the Gardai, Ireland’s police force.
This progress would not have been possible without the years of struggle by the Irish gay movement—which made its first media appearance in 1973, when Radio Eireann broadcast the voices of two openly gay people, Hugo McManus and the late Margaret McWilliams, speaking about a meeting to be held by the Sexual Liberation Movement.
Senator Norris, whom many Irish gays consider the godfather of the Irish gay rights movement, embodies much of that struggle’s history. In 1974, Norris—then teaching literature at Dublin’s Trinity College (Oscar Wilde’s alma mater)—and a group of friends formed the Irish Gay Rights Movement (IGRM). The group rented a building that housed a disco in the evenings, while in upstairs offices the work of fighting for gay rights went on during the day. After a controversy-stirring appearance on Radio Eireann in 1976, Norris—who had courageously
become IGRM’s spokesman, earning him the nickname of the “Trinity queer” as the only out-of-the-closet faculty member—erupted into the general public’s consciousness, and became the public face of Irish homosexuality for the next several decades.
In 1976, the IGRM split into two groups—those who wanted merely to pursue social activities and run their disco, and those who were committed to the fight to make homosexuality legal. That year Norris, leader of the latter group, founded the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform (CHLR), and enlisted the services of a friend, Trinity contemporary and barrister Mary Robinson, to initiate legal action to overturn criminal penalties for homosexuality. (Robinson was elected president of Ireland in 1990, serving until 1997, when she became the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.)
With Robinson as its attorney, CHLR succeeded in bringing Norris v. The State before Ireland’s Supreme Court in 1983—but, in a 3-2 decision, the suit was rejected. The decision referred to the “Christian nature of the Irish State” and argued that criminalization of homosexuality served both public health and the institution of marriage.
Norris next took his case to the European Court of Human Rights to argue that Irish law was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. In 1988, the court, in the case of Norris v. Ireland, ruled that the criminal penalties on homosexuality in the Irish Republic violated Article 8 of the Convention, which guarantees the right to privacy in personal affairs. But it was not until 1993 that Irish law was finally changed and homosexuality became legal.
Norris first ran for Ireland’s Senate, from a Dublin constituency that included Trinity College, in 1977—and received only 200 votes. But a decade later, after three more attempts, in 1987 Norris—by then an internationally recognized James Joyce scholar and a leader of the movement to preserve and restore Dublin’s historic architecture—finally won election. In the Senate, he led the successful parliamentary fight for decriminalization.
At Norris’ initiative, anti-gay discrimination was banned in the Employment Equality Act of 1998 and the Equal Status Act of 2000, which expanded the scope of the protections to include public accommodations, goods, and services. In his two decades in the Senate, Norris has also become noted for his voice on foreign affairs, most recently in his opposition to the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq.
Norris told Gay City News he is now active on the issue of the Iranian government’s escalating crackdown on gay life and expression, joining the recent international day of solidarity to draw attention to that tragic situation. “I’ve been involved with the case of the two hanged Iranian gay teenagers,” he said. “We had a terrific, large rally against this horrible example of state murder that was organized by BeLonG To in Dublin on July 19, at which I spoke, and I met with the Iranian ambassador.”
Norris, now 62, believes he is on the eve of yet another triumph—passage of some form of civil partnership that will include gay couples. “[Prime Minister] Bertie Ahern’s government with its typical dithering and long-fingering, will probably delay any action until after the next election, which will probably be held next spring,” Norris explained. “But within the next year or two, I have no doubt that we will pass a civil partnership bill. Whether it will be exactly my bill as proposed I don’t know—but it will happen.”
October 3, 2006
Lesbian couple take marriage case to Irish court
Dublin – A lesbian couple living in Ireland began a landmark court case on Tuesday to have their marriage recognised there.
Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan, who married in Canada in 2003, are taking legal action after Irish Revenue Commissioners refused to recognise them as a couple for tax purposes.
Same-sex partnerships and marriages currently have no legal status in Ireland although Justice Minister Michael McDowell said earlier this year the government would propose new laws recognising same-sex couples in the next 12 months. However, he said the legislation would fall short of allowing marriage.
Family law in predominantly Catholic Ireland, where homosexuality was illegal until 1993, has struggled to keep up with the rapid pace of social change heralded by more than a decade of rapid economic growth. Supporters of Zappone and Gilligan said their case highlighted the need for laws to be updated. " The constitutional rights that we in Ireland cherish, such as the right to equality and marriage, and property and family rights, continue to be denied to certain groups of people living in the state," Green Party spokesman Ciaran Cuffe said.
" Furthermore, in denying same sex couples these rights, Ireland is in breach of the rights to privacy, marriage and non-discrimination under the European Convention on Human Rights." If the legislation proposed by McDowell is passed, the changes would bring Ireland in line with the United Kingdom, which introduced civil partnerships late last year. The first female couple to tie the knot did so in Northern Ireland.
24 November 2006
Majority of Irish support equal marriage for gay couples
In a Lansdowne Market Research poll, which was commissioned by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) and conducted last month, an overwhelming majority of Irish people believe that the relationships of same-sex couples should be legally recognised. 51 percent of the respondents believe that lesbian and gay couples should have access to civil marriage, while a further 33 per cent believe that same-sex couples should have access to full Civil Partnership. These majorities extend across the whole country.
“We are delighted to see that Irish people appreciate that same-sex couples are living in long-term relationships and deserve public recognition and protection for their relationships," said GLEN’s Chief Executive Office, Keith O’Malley. "GLEN is seeking equality in marriage for lesbian and gay couples with equality in rights and responsibilities.” The Lansdowne Survey confirmed a continued growth in support in Ireland for legal recognition for same-sex relationships. In surveys in February 51 per cent, and in October, 64 per cent supported legal recognition.
“Irish people have experienced significant change in recent years," said Kieran Rose, Chairman of GLEN. "They have largely managed that change because they have taken an open minded approach. We believe that failure to recognise marriage for same-sex couples is a relic of the past. Attitudes are now more open and most people accept that recognising a stable and loving relationship, same-sex or otherwise, is simply the right thing to do. The government should now enact legislation to provide for equality in civil marriage for same-sex couples.”
93 per cent of people surveyed also believe that children in same-sex households should have the same legal rights as children in other family units. Keith O’Malley added: “Many same-sex couples in Ireland are currently raising children. These children and their families are currently in a state of limbo and it is imperative that they enjoy the full protection of the law. An overwhelming majority of Irish people agree.”
14 December 2006
Ireland Rejects Lesbian Marriage
Ireland’s High Court has rejected a lesbian couple’s attempt to have their marriage legally recognised. Katharine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan said that failure to recognise their marriage breached their rights. The two were married in 2003 in British Columbia, Canada, after that province legalised same-sex marriage. They live in Ireland and have been a couple for 25 years. They are the first homosexual couple to go to court over the issue after being married abroad. The couple had argued that failure to recognise their marriage breached their rights under the Irish constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
‘Right to marry’
"For three years we have been a married couple," said Dr Zappone after the court’s ruling. "We took the case because we believed and we requested that the human right to marry is simply extended to us." But the High Court in Dublin ruled that the court was being asked to redefine marriage to mean something which it had never done to date.
"I do not think that it is a right which exists for same sex couples either under the Irish constitution or under the European Convention," said Justice Elizabeth Dunne in a 138-page ruling. The couple took legal action in 2004 after Irish Revenue Commissioners refused to allow them the same tax allowances as mixed-sex couples in Ireland. Dr Gilligan is an academic and Dr Zappone is a public policy consultant. Justice Dunne said the rights of cohabitating couples, whether same- or mixed-sex, were being reviewed in Ireland.
Homosexuality was illegal in predominantly Roman Catholic Ireland until 1993.