Gay people 'isolated' in rural communities
Gay people in rural areas suffer isolation and discrimination and feel unable to fully integrate into their communities, it was claimed today.
A significant number find it difficult to reveal their sexual orientation and remain in the place they were born and raised, according to a new national programme designed to support the needs of homosexual people.
A top official with LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Diversity said mainstream services cannot provide proper support, leading to profound isolation and a heightened risk of mental health problems.
Equality Minister Pat Carey said the programme was timely, coming in the wake of the passing of the Civil Partnership Bill.
"That historic event showed how far we have travelled when it comes to embracing diversity as a society but it also gave us an opportunity to reflect on how far we still have to go," Mr Carey said.
"As we continue on this journey I am sure that this programme will be instrumental in driving change and promoting equality and integration and I welcome its publication."
LGBT Diversity aims to improve supports and services for people of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations, targeting rural communities in particular.
Regional development workers have been posted in the north west, the midlands and the south east to identify the needs of LGBT people and organisations in their region as well as liaising with mainstream services.
Derek McDonnell, LGBT Diversity's programme manager, said many gay people in country areas move to Dublin or other cities because they feel they cannot be themselves.
"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," Mr McDonnell said.
"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.
"Service providers - ranging from health to education - currently lack the capacity to respond effectively to the needs of these people, which can result in profound isolation and increased exposure to mental health issues."
LGBT Diversity said inequality was a contributor to isolation for many people, including lack of access to services, especially in rural areas.
It claims problems include gender recognition, the right to inherit, access to adoption and job security.