Fine Gael Senator Eamonn Coghlan has spoken about the difficulties faced by his son as a gay teenager, and of his own challenge in coming to terms with his son being gay.
“When I discovered my son Michael was gay I was devastated. I cried for weeks. The hopes and dreams I had for my son were shattered. I felt guilty, almost as if I was to blame for him being gay,” he said.
The former world champion athlete was speaking at a public information meeting about the forthcoming Marriage Equality Referendum organised by the Fine Gael LGBT group where he called for a yes vote on May 22nd.
“I tried to cover up my disappointment. While I hugged him, told him I loved him, I had to come to terms that, it was not about me but, about him and his life ahead.”
Coghlan said his son experienced bullying at school but didn’t know why it was happening at the time
“At the time we didn’t know why this was happening but after he came out it became apparent that it was because he was gay. He had also suffered from terrible stomach problems as a teen which we could never get diagnosed.
“It transpired that this was all anxiety related because of the struggle he had with knowing he was gay and the bullying he was being subjected to.”
Coghlan told the meeting how he came to terms with Michael being gay: "The big breakthrough for me was when some of Michael's gay friends joined us on a family holiday in Spain. I got to know them and see how happy he was with his mates."
He said the homophobic abuse Michael experienced didn’t stop after he came out as a gay man and he was subjected to two violent attacks in Dublin.
“It is clear to me as a parent of a gay child that the marriage equality Referendum is about voting for real people and their lives.
“It is not about politics or about voting for a particular party. It is about equality, removing rejection, removing exclusion, removing the guilt, shame and fear that gay people experience.
“We have to think of the person, their dignity, their validation, their human freedom to love and to live life to the full.”
“I was lucky enough to marry the woman of my dreams. Who are we as a nation to deny our sons and daughters the basic right of marrying the person they love?” he said.