Saturday 23 September 2017

'Homophobia, discrimination and inequality still a reality', says Zappone as Government looks to develop LGBTI strategy

Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Tom Burke
Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Tom Burke

Rebecca Lumley

"Homophobia, discrimination and inequality" are still a reality for many Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has said as Ireland approaches two years since marriage equality referendum.

The Minister was speaking at the launch of nationwide consultations which will take place nationwide this month to allow people to weigh in on a new LGBTI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex) National Youth Strategy.

“While the (marriage equality) referendum was a turning point, it unfortunately does not mark the end of our journey. Homophobia, discrimination and inequality are an everyday reality for many,” she said.

“Recent research tells us that despite the advances of recent years culminating with the referendum that members of our community are still more likely to suffer from depression, low self-esteem and isolation. We should all be concerned by such findings and Government has a duty to respond.”

The consultations are supported by the Union of Students in Ireland and BeLong To, a national organisation that supports LGBT young people.

Moninne Griffith, Executive Director of BeLong To said the move toward a national strategy was a "world-first".

"This is a world first, the first time a country has undertaken a strategy around LGBTI+ young people, so I think it’s really a positive thing. Post the marriage equality referendum a lot of people think that everything is grand, that it’s easy to be an LGBTI+ now in Ireland but our experience on the ground, working with young people, is that there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.” 

“There’s still a lot of rejection and isolation and bullying that goes on for young people because of their gender identity or sexual orientation and as a result of that, those LGBTI+ young people are more at risk of mental health problems.”

Ms Griffith said she was optimistic that the consultations will pave the way to improving support services for young people.

“What we’re hopeful is that, when all these issues are reflected into the process, that the strategy will present solutions and a way to implement change so that the future is bright for all young people, irrespective of their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

The Youth Strategy will be developed in accordance with the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014-2020.

Submissions from young LGBTI+ people will influence the strategy, as well as contributions from a Youth Advisory Group and an oversight committee, chaired by journalist Úna Mullally.

The next consultation will take place this Saturday in Croke Park, with more happening in Galway, Waterford, Dundalk and Cork later in the month.

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