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Jerry is the third TD to come out and say I'm gay

FINE Gael has welcomed its first openly-gay TD, as the party unveils a new gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender group.

Cork TD Jerry Buttimer has come out, saying he is a TD who "just happens to be gay".

Mr Buttimer's announcement comes as part of his unveiling as chairman of a new Fine Gael lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group.

More than 150 party members met in Dublin at the weekend to launch the new FG group, with Health Minister James Reilly and Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald speaking at the event.

Love

Mr Buttimer spoke of the "multiplicity of reasons" that leads a person to come out or "stay hidden", adding Taoiseach Enda Kenny is "very supportive".

One of the tasks of the new group will be to advocate for full marriage rights for gay people.

Cork South Central deputy Mr Buttimer is the third member of the Dail to come out.

Labour TDs Dominic Hannigan and John Lyons were the first openly-gay politicians in the chamber.

Writing in the Herald recently, Dublin North West deputy Mr Lyons said: "As a gay man, I feel like I can't just put my arm around my partner in public, I have to look and check if people are around before I express what is essentially a natural expression of love from one person to another.

"I can't help but feel that there has to be something wrong with a society if this is how a loving couple must show their affection."

He added: "I had never set out to fight the election campaign on the basis of my sexuality, any more than I did on the fact that I was a working class man from Ballymun. While these factors have shaped me, they do not define me."

Mr Lyons said: "Society in Ireland has changed, and largely for the better, but there is still some way to go before we have a more equal society whose laws reflect the values of the people they govern."

Tolerant

Speaking after his election, Mr Hannigan said: "Ireland in 2011 has moved on, we are a very tolerant society."

The Meath TD added: "I have been in a relationship for the past 18 years, and he is delighted that I have been elected. My sexuality was not an issue on the doorsteps, people seemed more concerned that I was a qualified civil engineer."

comurphy@herald.ie


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