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The hate goes on: the rise of a new strain of homophobia

The big read: The targeting of new Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman by far-right groups has been linked to increased abuse of the LGBT+ community. John Meagher reports

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Reaching out: Gay rights activist Tonie Walsh says the LGBT+ community needs to try to engage with homophobes. Picture by Frank McGrath

Reaching out: Gay rights activist Tonie Walsh says the LGBT+ community needs to try to engage with homophobes. Picture by Frank McGrath

People gather at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, during the count on the referendum on same-sex marriage.

People gather at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, during the count on the referendum on same-sex marriage.

Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman

Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman

People take part in a March for Innocence demonstration in Dublin calling for the resignation of Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman after he was pictured alongside British LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell at a pride march two years ago.

People take part in a March for Innocence demonstration in Dublin calling for the resignation of Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman after he was pictured alongside British LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell at a pride march two years ago.

PA

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Reaching out: Gay rights activist Tonie Walsh says the LGBT+ community needs to try to engage with homophobes. Picture by Frank McGrath

Tonie Walsh knows more than most about Ireland and homophobia. For 40 years, he has been at the forefront of gay rights, and his CV demonstrates just what pivotal a role he has played: he was president of the National LGBT Federation at a time when homosexuality was classed as criminal in Ireland, he was among the founders of one of gay Dublin's most important community spaces, the Hirschfeld Centre in Temple Bar, and he co-created Gay Community News, Ireland's largest and longest-running gay publication.

Walsh, who grew up in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, and moved to Dublin after school, has witnessed all kinds of homophobia, not least the dark days of the 1980s when two men, Declan Flynn and Charles Self were, respectively, beaten and stabbed to death for being gay. He remembers the casual anti-gay language, the sneering of conservative politicians, the threat of violence that hung in the air if the wrong person saw you emerge from a gay pub.

More recently, he has seen a new form of homophobia, one stoked by far-right zealots and conspiracy theorists, many of who purport to be devout Christians, and facilitated through social media. He has seen them attack new Children's Minster Roderic O'Gorman - who is gay - on the basis that he was once photographed with Peter Tatchell, the British gay rights campaigner who has made controversial comments about underage sex. (Tatchell claims his views were misrepresented.)