Sunday 18 November 2018

Government backs historic apology for criminalising gay people

Labour Senator Ged Nash. Picture: Tom Burke
Labour Senator Ged Nash. Picture: Tom Burke
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

The Government is to support an historic motion to apologise to gay people who were convicted because of their sexuality.

The motion will be brought by Labour Senator Ged Nash this Tuesday, ahead of the twenty fifth anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland. It is expected to receive all party support in the Dail and Seanad.

It acknowledges the hurt and harm caused to those who were "deterred by those laws from being open and honest about their identity" and "offers a sincere apology" to people who were "convicted of same-sex sexual activity which is now legal".

The Government is also looking at ways of exonerating gay people who were convicted of homosexual offences before the law was repealed in 1993. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, told the Dail last week the Government will "recognise the wrongs that were done."

However, he said legal complications could prevent the granting of a general pardon to people convicted of homosexual offences.

The Labour Party has already created a bill - also spearheaded by Ged Nash - that would see the State exonerate gay men who were convicted of sexual offences, so that their convictions can be set aside.

The Government is currently finalising an event at Dublin Castle next Sunday for 500-600 people, including gay rights activists and campaigners.

The event marks the day the legislation was repealed in 1993 by the then Fianna Fail Minister for Justice, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn.

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn will speak at a separate event organised by Fianna Fail at Smithfield on Wednesday, June 27. She will be joined by David Norris, the senator who took Ireland to the European Court for criminalising gay men in 1980s.

Fianna Fail's Equality spokesperson Fiona O'Loughlin TD said the event will celebrate family life in all its diversity. "It was in many cases the families of gay men and women who were some of the most forceful supporters of the campaign for decriminalisation," she said.

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