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First openly gay TDs are proud to blaze a trail

THE first openly gay TDs elected to Leinster House have revealed their excitement at blazing the trail for homosexuals throughout the country.

In a move that shows Irish voters were clearly looking for new, more diverse candidates representing them in the Dail, two politicians have paved the way for other gay candidates to follow in their footsteps.

Labour's Dominic Hannigan (45) and John Lyons (34) said that Ireland had evolved into a much more "tolerant" country.

And they hope that other gays in the country will see as a "positive" step.

"Ireland in 2011 has moved on, we are a very tolerant society," Mr Hannigan said.

"I have been in a relationship for the past 18 years, and he is delighted that I have been elected, as are my parents, brother and sisters.

"My sexuality was not an issue on the doorsteps, people seemed more concerned that I was a qualified civil engineer."

Meanwhile, Mr Lyons said that sexuality should not be the focal point.

"People's sexuality should not come into it. People are people. It's what they do regardless of whether they are gay or not," he said. "People often talk about a gender issue in the Dail, that there's not enough females ... but the main thing is what people do when they are in the Dail.

"I would like to think that for people who have not come out, or are ashamed, that from their perspective it's positive ... for them to see someone in the Dail, who understands what it's like."