Government to apologise to gay men for ‘discriminatory’ laws

Oireachtas to acknowledge law, in place prior to 1993, caused multiple harms to those affected

 Charlie Flanagan will seek Cabinet approval on Tuesday to offer a formal apology to the men, who were criminalised prior to 1993 for consensual same-sex activities. Photograph:  Niall Carson/PA Wire

Charlie Flanagan will seek Cabinet approval on Tuesday to offer a formal apology to the men, who were criminalised prior to 1993 for consensual same-sex activities. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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The Government will on Tuesday apologise to gay men for the “improperly discriminatory” laws which criminalised them because of their sexuality.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan will seek Cabinet approval on Tuesday to offer a formal apology to the men, who were criminalised prior to 1993 for consensual same-sex activities.

Mr Flanagan and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar are to make statements in the Dáil responding to the all-party motion, initiated by Labour Senator Ged Nash, on the matter.

The repealed laws had “caused multiple harms to those directly and indirectly affected, namely men who engaged in consensual same-sex activities, and their families and friends” and “had a significant chilling effect on progress towards equality for the LGBTI community, acknowledging in particular the legacy of HIV/Aids within the context of criminalisation”, the motion states.

The Oireachtas and the State acknowledge the hurt and the harm caused to those who were deterred from being open and honest about their identity with their family and in society, it continues.

Each individual convicted of same-sex sexual activity will be offered an apology. The move to make homosexual acts no longer illegal in 1993 followed a 16-year legal battle by Senator David Norris.

Reception

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is also set to host a Government reception in Dublin Castle on Sunday evening to mark the 25th anniversary of decriminalisation.

More than 700 people are expected to attend including LGBT advocacy groups, members of the judiciary, faith groups and a number of politicians.

Fianna Fáil will also hold an event next week to mark the occasion with Máire Geoghegan Quinn, who was minister for justice when homosexuality was decriminalised, and Senator Norris , who played a leading role in the campaign.

It is estimated up to 2,000 Irish gay men might have been convicted on such charges.

There have been calls to legally set aside or disregard the convictions received by men for engaging in sexual activities which are no longer offences.

Speaking last week, Mr Varadkar said there were complications in offering a pardon to all those convicted as it was “ not always possible to distinguish one conviction from another”.

“In some cases, the convictions involve minors and it is not necessarily possible in all cases to distinguish whether the offence involved a minor, a point that makes things a little trickier in Ireland.”

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