Gay Ireland and Northern Ireland News and Reports 2009-10

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)

1 Homophobic Bullying a Major Problem in Irish Schools 2/09

2 Ireland to refuse adoption rights for gay couples 2/09

3 ‘High number’ of gay and bisexual domestic violence victims in No. Ireland 3/09

4 Dublin gay rights activists rally for same-sex marriage 4/09

5 64% of homophobic incidents in Northern Ireland are not reported 6/09

6 Mixed response to civil partnerships bill from Ireland’s gay community 6/09

7 Christian protesters fail to halt Belfast Pride 8/09

8 Video: Irish gay marriage ad becomes a surprise internet hit 9/09

9 Workplace equality and violence top concerns for Irish gays and lesbians 11/09

10 Organisation set up for gay Irish doctors 4/10

11 Irish parliament approves civil partnerships bill 7/10

12 Irish president Mary McAleese signs civil partnerships bill 7/10

13 Irish programme launched to tackle LGBT isolation 7/10

14 Gay Traveller Support Group win National Award 12/10

February 2, 2009 –

Homophobic Bullying a Major Problem in Irish Schools

Posted by Daily Queer News
The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network says homophobic bullying is a major problem in Irish schools. The organisation says it has carried out an online survey and more than half of the 1,000 respondents said they had been called abusive names.
Forty per cent said they had been verbally threatened by fellow students due to their sexuality and one-fifth said they skipped school because they felt threatened.

More than one-third also reported homophobic comments by teachers or staff members. GLEN says most gay pupils can cope with the stress, but the abuse has had an impact on the mental health of a significant minority.


February 11, 2009 – PinkNews

Ireland to refuse adoption rights for gay couples

by Staff Writer,
A leading gay rights group in Ireland is angry that new adoption legislation is discriminatory. The Irish government published the Adoption Bill 2009 last month. It limits access to adoption to married couples and individuals, excluding non-married same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

The chair of the country’s National Lesbian and Gay Federation, Ailbhe Smyth, said: "It is extraordinarily disappointing that a government which professes to support full equality for all citizens would seek to yet again reinforce the inequalities within our society. At the same time as they published a legislative programme promising to introduce a Civil Partnership Bill in the current Dáil (Parliament) session, it’s clear that the government have no intention of providing full security for the children of same-sex couples nor increasing placement choice for children requiring adoptive families.

"Thousands of Irish children are living in stable, secure family environments with parents who are not married, or who are not permitted to marry by the state. By failing to allow for joint adoption in such circumstances, the government are bringing into stark reality the threat of children being removed from their homes in the event of something happening to their legal parent. We call on the government to ensure that this bill, in line with other European jurisdictions, is expanded to provide for equality of adoption rights between all couples, be they married or unmarried, same-sex or opposite-sex."

In England and Wales the Adoption and Children Act took force in December 2005 and for the first time allowed unmarried couples, including same-sex couples, to apply for joint adoption. Any unmarried couple, including a same-sex couple, wishing to adopt will need to be able to demonstrate that their partnership is an "enduring family relationship." In Scotland the law has been changed to allow gay couples to adopt – it comes into force in June.

In the aftermath of a landmark court case last year which paved the way for unmarried couples in Northern Ireland to adopt, legal experts said there should be no reason as to why gay couples cannot take advantage of the ruling. The Adoption and Children Act came into effect.

March 27, 2009 – PinkNews

‘High number’ of gay and bisexual domestic violence victims in Northern Ireland

by Jessica Geen
The gay and bisexual community in Northern Ireland is suffering from disproportionate rates of domestic violence, an official report has claimed. The paper, published this week by the Northern Ireland Policing Board, concluded that a high percentage of those experiencing domestic violence are gay or bisexual men and women. It cited research suggesting one in four LGB people in the country have received physical abuse from a partner, which led to the PSNI revising its definition of domestic abuse to include LGB people.

One issue raised was a lack of understanding on the part of police officers The report cited the example of an officer who recorded an incident between a male couple as a bar brawl, rather than a case of domestic violence. The report also urged sensitive, positive and supportive treatment of victims, as many anticipate prejudice from police.

John O’Doherty, equalities officer for gay and bisexual charity The Rainbow Project, said: "We welcome the report and we welcome the recognition of same-sex domestic violence. We are also pleased that the high level of same-sex domestic violence is being recognised. "We look forward to working with the PSNI and Northern Ireland Policing Board to ensure the best possible service for gay domestic violence victims."

Earlier this month, it was revealed that government plans for a new consultation on domestic violence in the UK will not cover abuse in same-sex relationships or violence suffered by men. In 2007, 142 people died in domestic attacks, including 38 men.

April 21, 2009 – PinkNews

Dublin gay rights activists rally for same-sex marriage

by Jessica Geen
More than 600 activists protested in Dublin’s city centre on Sunday to call for marriage rights rather than same-sex partnerships.
A civil partnership bill will appear before the Dáil (parliament) shortly. The proposed legislation will grant gay and lesbian couples legal recognition in areas such as pensions, social security, property rights, tax, succession and the payment of maintenance.

The government has ruled out gay marriage, claiming that it would require a change to the country’s constitution and a potentially divisive referendum. However, campaigners say that civil partnerships are an outdated 1990s construct and that same-sex marriages should be legal.

“The civil partnership Bill is an inferior piece of legislation which does not recognise families or give people the right to adopt their partner’s children,” said Eloise McInerney of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Noise, which organised the protest. “We don’t want crumbs from the master’s table, we want the whole cake. We want the wedding cake,” she told the Irish Times.

Alternative Miss Ireland organiser Rory O’Neill drew comparisons with the civil rights movement in America, saying: "Sometimes we gays are so happy we got this far, we don’t want to rock the boat. People are telling us that we should be happy sitting halfway up the bus. I am not happy sitting halfway up the bus. “I want to sit at the front of the bus and if I feel like it I want to drive the bus.”

A poll released in February by campaigning group MarriagEquality suggested there is widespread support for gay marriage. It found that 81 per cent of those polled believe that all people living in Ireland should receive equal treatment from the state regardless of their sexual orientation. Six out of ten people believed that denying marriage to lesbians and gay men is a form of discrimination.

In Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, civil partnerships have been legal since 2005. They provide same-sex couples with the same rights and obligations as those attaching to an opposite sex couple, including issues that arise in relation to the care and welfare of children.

June 2, 2009 – PinkNews

64% of homophobic incidents in Northern Ireland are not reported

by Staff Writer,
One of the largest surveys on the experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Northern Ireland has revealed many have been the victim of homophobic abuse and violence. The Rainbow Project’s report, entitled Through Our Eyes, found that 64% of homophobic incidents go unreported and 21 per cent of bi and gay men and 18 per cent of women have been attacked in the past three years. Nearly 40per cent of the 1,124 respondents said they are worried about homophobic crime and the same amount, 39 per cent, alter their behaviour to appear more "straight."

Twenty-one per cent said they had experienced problems with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). The police commissioned the survey. The Rainbow Project Equality Officer John O’Doherty, who carried out the research, said: "Hate crime has a devastating effect on victims, those who fear being victim and on society in general. "The PSNI have made substantial progress in gaining the co-operation of the LGB community and improving perceptions of the PSNI. However, there are still high levels of homophobic hate crime throughout Northern Ireland and low levels of reporting."

June 29, 2009 – PinkNews

Mixed response to civil partnerships bill from Ireland’s gay community

by Staff Writer,
The largest LGBT rights group in the Irish Republic has welcomed the publication of a bill that provides for a statutory civil partnership registration scheme for same-sex couples.
The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network said it "strongly welcomed" the Civil Partnership Bill. “This is a major civil rights reform that will resolve many immediate and pressing issues faced by lesbian and gay couples” said Kieran Rose, Chair of GLEN. “Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Dermot Ahern and the Government are to be congratulated on bringing forward this complex and comprehensive legislation and committing to its early enactment.” He added that "all political parties" played a role in "getting us to this point."

Mr Ahern said: "Publication of the Bill implements a commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government to legislate for Civil Partnerships. The Bill provides very significant rights to civil partners which raises complex legal issues in the context of the special protection which the Constitution guarantees to marriage and in relation to the equality rights protected by Article 40.1 of the Constitution. The Bill has been carefully framed to balance any potential conflict between these two constitutionally guaranteed rights. "

However, some Irish LGBT rights groups are unhappy that civil marriage is not on the table, while conservatives have attacked the bill as "undermining marriage." At Pride in Dublin on Saturday thousands of people marched, some wearing wedding dresses. Gay rights group MarriageEquality said that research conducted by Lansdowne Market Research shows that 81% of the Irish public agree that everyone should receive equal treatment from the state regardless of their sexuality.

Grainne Healy, Co-Chair, MarriagEquality, said: “MarriagEquality want equal marriage rights for lesbians and gay men. Civil partnership is not marriage like, and does not confer marriage like rights on lesbians and gay men who choose to legally register their relationship through it. The civil partnership legislation is deficient on so many levels and discriminates against lesbians, gay men and their children to such an extent that MarriagEquality are calling on to Government to legislate for civil marriage now.”

The Iona Institute, a group that claims to be dedicated to "strengthening society," condemned the civil partnership legislation.

Speaking on behalf of the Institute, Dr John Murray said: "The main purpose of family policy is the promotion of the family that is most beneficial from the point of view of the child, and that remains the family based on the marriage between a man and a woman. Family policy is not primarily about the promotion of equality between adults as the Government now seems to believe. The special status of marriage is undermined by effectively raising other forms of the family to a similar level to marriage. The Government is clearly moving from a pro-marriage policy to a pro-family diversity model based on an erroneous view of equality."

The Bill provides for a statutory civil partnership registration scheme for same-sex couples together with a range of rights and duties consequent on registration including maintenance obligations, protection of a shared home, pension rights and succession. On registration of a civil partnership, the civil partners will be treated in the same way as spouses under the tax and social welfare codes. The necessary legislative provisions, to be provided for in Finance and Social Welfare Bills, will be brought into effect at the same time as the civil partnership registration scheme commences.

The Bill provides, for unmarried opposite-sex couples and unregistered same-sex couples, a redress scheme to give protection to a financially dependent person at the end of a long-term cohabiting relationship. The cohabitants scheme will put in place a legal safety-net for people living in long-term relationships who may otherwise be very vulnerable financially at the end of a relationship, whether through break-up or through bereavement.

August 3, 2009 – PinkNews

Christian protesters fail to halt Belfast Pride

by Staff Writer,
A 70-strong group of Christian protesters were present at Belfast Pride yesterday but were mainly ignored by the 6,000 revellers marching the streets.
The group, led by Rev David McIlveen of Sandown Free Presbyterian Church, protested outside St Anne’s Cathedral, while another smaller gathering demonstrated outside City Hall.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, Rev McIlveen told his followers: “This is an offensive parade that has no place in any Belfast festival.” As the parade passed, they turned their backs and bowed their heads. Belfast Pride, which was allowed to pass unhindered for the second year, is usually targeted by religious protesters. Free Presbyterian protesters infiltrated the march in 2006, handing out extracts from the Bible in protest.

It sparked controversy in 2007 when one marcher carried a placard saying ‘Jesus is a fag’. Belfast City councillor Christopher Stalford led calls for restrictions on future gay parades, claiming he was offended by the placard. Belfast Pride has been held every year since 1991 despite calls from the Free Presbyterians and others to ban it.

Parade organiser Scott Mitchell said he hoped religious protesters may one day take part in the march but added: "Unfortunately we’re just going to have to deal with that until they decide not to do that any more."

September 4, 2009 – PinkNews

Video: Irish gay marriage ad becomes a surprise internet hit

by Jessica Geen
A ad from Irish gay marriage group MarriagEquality has become a worldwide hit on the internet. The video, titled Sinead’s Hand, sees a smartly-dressed young man traipsing through streets and the Irish countryside asking everyone he meets for ‘Sinead’s’ hand in marriage. Towards the end of the film, a message appears on screen: "How would you feel if you had to ask four million people permission to get married? Lesbian and gay men are denied access to marriage in Ireland."

Irish actor Hugh O’Connor plays the young man and the soundtrack is Ocean and Rock by Lisa Hannigan. After being launched at GAZE, the Dublin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the film is now being virally marketed around the world and has become something of a hit. It has been viewed 54,000 times on YouTube by people from all over the world.

Andrew Hyland, spokesman for MarriagEquality, told "There was already a US version but we wanted an Irish version to make it more relevant to people. All the settings will be very familiar to Irish people, depending on where you’re from. There are lots of recognisable sites. The actor, Hugh O’Connor, is very famous. He was in Chocolat with Johnny Depp and also My Left Foot. And Lisa Hannigan, who performs the soundtrack, is very popular with Irish people. We called it Sinead’s Hand as Sinead is a very Irish [female] name and we thought it sounded short and cute.

"The film was really made to motivate people. When we premiered it at the Dublin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the reaction was amazing. The message at the end got a big round of applause. Apparently it is spreading like wildfire. People from the UK, Ireland, America and all over the world have seen it. It’s one of those things that once you’ve seen it, it stays with you."

Currently, gay marriage and civil partnerships are not legal in Ireland but the Irish parliament is to debate proposed legislation on civil partnerships this month. It passed, it will grant gay and lesbian couples legal recognition in areas such as pensions, social security, property rights, tax, succession and the payment of maintenance. However, various advocacy groups are becoming more vocal in their calls for gay marriage.

The government has ruled it out, claiming that it would require a change to the country’s constitution and a potentially divisive referendum.

To watch the video

November 13, 2009 – PinkNews

Workplace equality and violence top concerns for Irish gays and lesbians

by Jessica Geen
A nationwide survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in Ireland has found that their top concerns are equality in the workplace, anti-gay violence and bullying. The National Gay and Lesbian Foundation (NGLF) surveyed 1,100 gays and lesbians to ask their their priorities.

The research, titled Burning Issues, found that the most important thing for respondents was being able to work somewhere where they could be open about their sexuality or sexual identity without facing discrimination. The second most important issue was homophobic violence. This ranked at 8.2 on a scale with one being least important and ten being the most important.

Young gay and bisexual men rated this as their top concern. Dr Sean Denyer, report co-author, said: “Violence against any individual or group cannot be tolerated. The fact that young gay or bisexual men ranked this as their number one issue reveals the extent of the problem and highlights why the establishment of a taskforce is so urgent.

"Homophobic violence has lead to deaths in Ireland, it has resulted in the hospitalisation of countless men and women. The government must take steps to stamp this out forever.” Trans respondents said their top priority was workplace equality but ranked access to health services as their second most important concern.

Ailbhe Smyth, chair of the NGLF, commented: “Significantly, it is clear from Burning Issues that transgender people are particularly disadvantaged specifically in relation to equality and support. While transgender people ranked equality rights at work as number one in keeping with the report findings, they listed health and mental health services as number two instead of violence.

"This gives us a clear message that transgender people feel that existing provisions are limited and must be made fully accessible.” Marriage equality was ranked at number three for gay people, while support for younger people and those coming out followed. In a section which allowed respondents to give qualitative answers, far more were concerned with equal marriage rights than civil partnerships. They also raised the issues of lesbian and gay parenting rights and support services for those living outside Dublin.

April 27, 2010 – PinkNews

Organisation set up for gay Irish doctors

by Staff Writer,
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans doctors in Ireland now have their own social and support group. Gay Doctors Ireland will hold its first annual general meeting in Dublin next month after being set up in December.
Founder Dr Conor Malone of Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, said similar organisations were running in the UK and around the world.

He told the Irish Times: “I think in general LGBT professionals face similar issues across the board which they encounter in college and the workplace. For LGBT doctors, medicine has traditionally been a very conservative working environment, particularly in the hospitals.Medicine is so racially diverse, people are so integrated in other ways . . . it seems the last bastion of the old medical hierarchy is for LGBT doctors to be accepted. It is happening, very slowly but surely.”

Gay Doctors Ireland has around 40 members at present, although many others are involved with the group. The first AGM takes place on Saturday May 8th 2010 in the Sky Room of the Radisson Blu Hotel, Golden Lane, Dublin.

July 2, 2010 – PinkNews

Irish parliament approves civil partnerships bill

by Jessica Geen
Irish politicians have passed a bill granting gay and lesbians couples the right to civil partnerships. The bill passed in the Dail yesterday without a vote and justice minister Dermot Ahern said the move reflected change in Irish society. "Our society has change substantially in recent decades,’’ he said.
“While marriage is more popular than ever, other forms of relationships have become increasingly common; they create some difficulties in the legal system and require in our law a measure of recognition and of protection."

Irish gay campaigners welcomed the bill’s progress but reiterated concerns that some areas of the law were not covered. Kieran Rose, the chair of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, called it a "major civil rights reform and a great achievement for Irish society". But he added: “A continuing area of concern for GLEN however, is the absence in the bill of support and recognition of the many children being parented by same-sex couples. This critical omission will have to be addressed.”

The rights the bill will give include protections and obligations across areas such as protection of the couple’s shared home, domestic violence, residential tenancies, succession, refugee law, pensions, taxation, social welfare and immigration. All parties supported the bill, although some individual politicians attacked it. It is expected to become law in the autumn, 17 years after Ireland decriminalised homosexuality. The bill will go to the upper house (Seanad) in the next two weeks, which has limited power but can send it back to the lower house. Once passed by the Seanad, the president signs the bill into law.

July 20, 2010 – PinkNews

Irish president Mary McAleese signs civil partnerships bill into law

by Jessica Geen
Irish president Mary McAleese signed the country’s civil partnerships bill into law yesterday. It gives gay couples almost all of the rights of marriage. The bill passed in the Dail without a vote and was approved by senators in the Seanad last week.
However, gay couples will not be able to have civil partnerships until January, as tax and social welfare changes have to be made by the departments of Finance and Social Protection.

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network has welcomed the change in law, although it has repeated concerns that there is not enough recognition and support of children whose parents are gay. The rights the bill will give include protections and obligations across areas such as protection of the couple’s shared home, domestic violence, residential tenancies, succession, refugee law, pensions, taxation, social welfare and immigration.

July 20, 2010 – PinkNews

Irish programme launched to tackle LGBT isolation

by Jessica Geen
A new programme has been launched in Ireland to counter isolation suffered by LGBT people in rural communities. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Diversity programme aims to coordinate support services for LGBT people across the country. The launch comes just one day after Irish president Mary McAleese signed a civil partnerships bill into law.

Regional development workers will be posted to the more isolated areas of the country to identify LGBT people’s needs and work with local health services. Derek McDonnell, programme manager the initiative, said mainstream services cannot provide adequate support for LGBT people, which can lead to an increased risk of mental health problems. He said: "Despite recent progress for LGBT people in Ireland, a significant number still find it difficult to be ‘out’ and remain living in their local communities. Much of this is the result of a lack of recognition that all communities are made up of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. "Many LGBT people migrate towards Dublin or other cities because they feel they cannot play a full role in the community in which they were born and raised."

The programme has been developed with the help of 11 LGBT organisations and is funded by Atlantic Philanthropies. Pat Carey, the minister for community, equality and Gaeltacht affairs, launched the programme. According to the Irish Times, he said: "Irish society has not always been as supportive of gay people as it should have been, particularly in rural Ireland. "Young LGBT people who felt isolated in rural communities, and unable to be true to themselves, have often felt forced to move away to cities."

December 3rd, 2010 – Maman Poulet

Gay Traveller Support Group win National Award

In the midst of the snow and economic chaos the Traveller Pride Awards yesterday may have gone unnoticed, however the Irish Times gives excellent coverage to the ceremony and the prize winners. The prizes were presented by President Mary McAleese.

The community prize was shared by Rosaleen McDonagh and the Gay Traveller Support Group. When it came time for the Gay group to come and collect their prize nobody in the room felt that they could come forward because they didn’t feel comfortable. Rosaleen collected the award on their behalf, she and other Travellers and other lesbians and gay men working with Travellers have been supporting this group who this year marched in the Dublin and Galway Pride Parades.

I’ve been aware of the group for some time and the great difficulties that they experience both in the lgbt community/scene and in the Traveller community. As the gay man interviewed in the Irish Times piece says there are huge similarities between different groups and their lived experiences in Irish Society. It struck me how similar the life of a disabled person is to the life of a Traveller. We both have to fight against prejudice and isolation. As a lesbian with a disability I have known the difficulties in both the lgbt community and also the disability sector. It’s a case of constant coming out or constant shutting up or being shut out.

Rosaleen said yesterday that there are 100 ways to be a Traveller and that is so true elsewhere – there are 100 ways to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. Different ethnicities, social classes, abilities, sexual desires, relationships, marital statuses, opinions and needs. We’re a very diverse bunch and that diversity has to be recognised and celebrated. There are great difficulties faced by lgbt Pavees in living their lives openly. Retaining your Traveller identity while coming out is hard. Coming out to family and friends and staying connected to those contacts is nearly impossible.

There are also huge challenges for Lesbian Travellers as they are even more invisible for many reasons including lack of access to money, freedom and safety to move and explore their lives and been seen to reject marriage and family obligations if they do not marry. The recognition by Traveller culture of the diversity in their community will hopefully help the Gay Traveller Support Group to thrive in the coming years and for it’s members to overcome the racism and homophobia in both communities. The LGBT community must also work on continuing to support the group and lgbt Travellers and other minorities in Irish society.

Congratulations to them and of course also to Rosaleen McDonagh for winning the overall prize for her work in pursuing a more inclusive community for Travellers.