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Saturday 18 August 2018

Former Rose questions Trump and calls for LGBT equality in North

Pride of Mayo: Maria Walsh Photo: David Conachy
Pride of Mayo: Maria Walsh Photo: David Conachy
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh has hit out at Northern Ireland's stance on gay rights issues and called for further equality across the island of Ireland.

The Mayo native also questioned American President Donald Trump's approach to LGBT rights. Mr Trump reversed a policy allowing transgender people to serve openly in the US military earlier this year.

Maria Walsh doing charity work with young girls in Ghana
Maria Walsh doing charity work with young girls in Ghana

Maria said there needed to be a global conversation about how LGBT issues are treated, and called on communities in Ireland to consider the different approaches taken on either side of the Border.

"Some communities are so divided by that and it is just so funny that right over our Border it can be very different but that is the case and in other countries it is very different," she said.

"That is a good conversation point over the next year or two.

"On this island not all 32 counties are deemed equal in terms of LGBT rights and in large parts of Africa homosexuality is forbidden, so when you think of it from a global perspective, we have a lot of work to do.

"We might have it in the Republic but we certainly do not have that across the world.

"Globally we need to discuss it. If you look over at the United States and the conversations that have come since the President has gone in, it is different messages, different understandings and different perspectives of what is right and what is not right.

"I think all of us across the globe need to step up to the mark and start building for different generations instead of worrying about what people think."

She praised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for speaking out against inequality in the North earlier this year but said more needed to be done.

"He's a great advocate for that (LGBT rights), but you are often quite ignorant when people say 'your island passed a referendum in 2015'. Your reply is 'no the Republic passed it'. Unfortunately we have a little bit more work to do up North."

Since relinquishing her Rose of Tralee crown in 2015 Maria has worked with Plan International Ireland, a children's rights charity.

She visited Ghana last year to see how young girls there are taught and educated. She is due to travel away again later this year to help girls in some of the world's poorest countries.

"Domestic abuse and rape can be rampant in some of the communities Plan work for so we are trying to create conversations about security, education and being safe to have a better future.

"Plan is very much not about dictating to the community they are working in but working alongside it, working with the elders in a community right down to the schools and medical units that work with them there.

"They try and create that sustainability conversation and help support over a period of time and then step out and let a community run themselves."

Plan International Ireland's Because I am a Girl Ball takes place on October 21 at the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin. More information is available at

Sunday Independent

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