The term “discrimination” describes the unfair or unjust treatment of an individual or a group of individuals because of traits like race, gender, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. Discrimination happens in various contexts, including public services, employment, housing, and the workplace.
Undoubtedly, discrimination impacts victims’ opportunities, well-being, physical and mental health, and the social cohesion and harmony of the community. However, the LGBTI+ community, like the Traveller community, shares the commonality of experiencing discrimination daily.
Ireland is no stranger when it comes to discrimination. Yes, it’s fair to say attitudes have changed for the better over the last 30 years. That doesn’t mean some people will have abandoned the same grudges and prejudices, and one may still read in the media of minority communities across the Island falling foul of these attitudes.
When it was announced this summer that Rialtas na Éireann would begin to rescind historical convictions for consensual homosexual activity, the news was welcomed. An announcement felt by many to be well overdue.
Travellers’ Voice spoke with Ged Nash, T.D. for County Louth, who welcomed the proposal stating that “legislation to disregard historic convictions for consensual sexual activity between men must be enacted before the end of 2023.”
Deputy Nash also stated, “We owe it to the men who have been prosecuted and persecuted by this society because of who they are and whom they love that the necessary legislation to give effect to a scheme of disregard is enacted before the end of this year.”
Equality, inclusivity & Human Rights
Ireland has made considerable progress toward equality, and magnificent work has been carried out in actively supporting the LGBTI+ community. We acknowledge that there have been darker times when prejudice and unfavourable attitudes toward Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender people in Ireland. This includes physical assaults against members of the LGBTI+ community.
One can understand when Ged Nash mentions why it is “critical that the (historical convictions) scheme that is brought forward is informed at all times by a human rights-based approach and that the scheme is accessible, inclusive, sensitive, appropriate, and sufficiently broad,”, that we must look precisely at the term “human rights“.
A danger remains, however, in challenging the idea of human rights. With every step forward we take, old mindsets rear their ugly heads. Deputy Nash tells me, “We know we have a long way to go before Ireland can be a beacon for LGBTQI+.” He refers to a recent allegedly homophobic attack on two people in his hometown of Drogheda, County Louth.
Education & Progression
If we are to consistently reach the standards that go hand in hand with “Human rights.” Then perhaps it is through education that we can make consistent progress.
It is heartening to know that education in Ireland strives to foster inclusivity. Teachers encourage diversity and inclusivity among children, increasing awareness in them. Educating both children and parents to appreciate the varied cultures that diversity offers and acknowledging that being unique is something to be embraced is an ideal starting point for this learning process.
Our leaders, too, regardless of ideology, have been figureheads. The Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar,’ came out’ a few years ago; Katherine Zappone, Pat Carey, and Maria Walsh are all public figures who have accepted their sexuality. Sports celebrities have also contributed. Dónal Óg Cusack, a Cork hurling legend, openly celebrates his homosexuality. Several members of Ireland’s women’s soccer team, who will compete in the upcoming World Cup, are openly lesbian. This visibility is critical in educating society about the LGBTQI+ community if we are to change perspectives.
Ged Nash noted, “Part of preparing for a better and more tolerant future is to come to terms with our past. The apology and disregard process are a key part of that process.” Let us hope that an apology is not far away.