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Gay people isolated in rural areas

Gay people in rural areas suffer isolation and discrimination and feel unable to fully integrate into their communities, it was claimed today.

A significant number find it difficult to reveal their sexual orientation and remain in the place they were born and raised, according to a new national programme designed to support the needs of homosexual people.

A top official with LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Diversity said that mainstream services could not provide proper support, leading to profound isolation and a heightened risk of mental health problems.

Equality Minister Pat Carey said the programme was timely, coming in the wake of the passing of the Civil Partnership Bill.

"That historic event showed how far we have travelled when it comes to embracing diversity as a society but it also gave us an opportunity to reflect on how far we still have to go," Mr Carey said.

LGBT Diversity aims to improve supports and services for people of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations, targeting rural communities in particular.

Regional development workers have been posted in the north-west, the midlands and the south-east to identify the needs of LGBT people and organisations in their region in addition to liaising with mainstream services.

Derek McDonnell, LGBT Diversity's programme manager, said that many gay people in country areas move to live in Dublin or other cities because they feel they cannot be themselves.

"Despite recent progress for LGBT people in Ireland, a significant number still find it difficult to be 'out' and remain living in their local communities," Mr McDonnell said.