Prejudice against gay people a 'cancer' - Children's Minister
Prejudice against gay people is a "cancer" on society that has led to the murder of an innocent man and partners being denied the right to visit their dying loved ones in hospital, according to Children's Minister James Reilly.
Dr Reilly said the "long shadow of prejudice and discrimination" continues to impact gay children today who "feel society doesn't accept them".
He highlighted the case of Declan Flynn, who was killed in a 'gay bashing' attack.
Dr Reilly said in the early 1980s "when almost two in three Irish people believed that homosexuality is never justified", a young man was killed in Fairview because he was gay.
"The judge gave his attackers a suspended sentence, stating that they were 'cleaning up the area'," Dr Reilly said.
"Back then, prejudice was so engrained in our society that a group of young men felt free to assault a man in public until they killed him and a judge decided that their actions didn't warrant a prison sentence."
The Fine Gael deputy leader made the remarks during an address to teachers in Dublin last night.
Dr Reilly spoke about how as a practising doctor, he experienced gay people being turned away from spending time with their partners.
"I've seen the immense hurt and upset this caused for both the patient and their partner - especially when the patient was in the final hours of their life. Cases like this were pointless tragedies. How were they allowed to happen?"
His comments came as three leading organisations in the area of children's interests called for a Yes vote.
Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay said some No campaign posters contained messages that were a "sickening" insult to lone parents and their children.
Meanwhile, Dr Reilly also rounded on the Iona Institute, which he claimed has changed its stance on civil partnership.
Citing an interview given by the Iona patron Breda O'Brien, in which she said she now supports the concept of civil partnership, Dr Reilly called on the No side to consider the impact their views have on vulnerable children.
"Just six years ago, the Iona Institute called the Civil Partnership Bill a 'deeply flawed and poorly thought-out approach to family policy'," Dr Reilly said.
"Now, like everybody else, they appear to be challenging old beliefs and opening up their minds...I hope they will reflect on what a positive thing it would be if vulnerable teenagers no longer have to ask why they can't get married; only to be told 'because you're different'."
Ms O'Brien could not be reached for comment.
But David Quinn of the Iona Institute said that it opposed civil partnership in the form it was introduced and that alternative proposals for domestic partnerships are available on its website.