Former president Mary McAleese has said all the major churches in Ireland are “conduits for homophobia” and that questions must be asked to tackle this issue.
Ms McAleese said that while Ireland is a safe place, homophobia has “never gone away”.
“What has happened though is that it has been really relegated to the corner, the bad boys and bad girls' corner. From a time when it was almost the prevailing law of the land you could say,” she told The Anton Savage Show on Newstalk.
“There are countries all over the world where homosexual activity is criminalised, and indeed not only criminalised, but in some cases, amenable to death penalties.
“We’re fortunate to live, I think, in a very modern and very progressive democracy, where our people have been educated about human rights.”
Ms McAleese said homophobia is “out there” and is still an issue in 2022.
"It's out there, it's on the streets. When my son was married a couple of years ago - he's gay - when he and his husband got married, I was doing a homily at the wedding,” she said.
"I just made the point about how fortunate we are to live in a place where he and his partner, his husband, can walk the streets in relative safety.”
"But knowing too that there's always the homophobe, there's always the hatred that can outcrop but also knowing there are parts of the world he simply cannot visit."
The 70-year-old added religion has a “very big role” in Ireland and largely influences attitudes.
"We also need to have the kind of debate about where does this hatred come from? What keeps it going? What fails to challenge it?” she said.
"And I still think, regrettably, that in a country where religion plays a very, very, very big role and is a huge key influencer of attitudes, I think the churches, and I'm not just talking about the Catholic church, I'm talking about all the major denominations because all of them are conduits for homophobia.
"They all have questions to ask about whether or not, and to what extent, they have been conduits for hatred".
Ms McAleese will be speaking to The Anton Savage Show on Newstalk this Saturday.