Martin says strong European response required to Hungarian legislation

EU should agree to extend NI chilled meat importation grace period, he says

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán has defended his country's law to ban the dissemination of material in schools deemed to promote homosexuality or gender change, and declared himself a fighter for LGBT rights. Video: David Dunne/EU Council

 

Hungarian legislation which prohibits gay people from featuring in educational materials or broadcast content aimed at under-18s is contrary to the “fundamental values” of the European Union, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

EU leaders are set for a showdown with Hungary at their summit in Brussels after the regime of Viktor Orbán introduced the law which rights groups say equates homosexuality to paedophilia and will deprive young people of important sex education.

Ireland has called on the European Commission to begin legal proceedings against Hungary for breaching EU norms in response.

“We’re extremely annoyed and angry with what is transpiring within Hungary, and it’s causing a lot of disquiet in Ireland and across the European Union because it transgresses fundamental values of what the union stands for, and is unacceptable in terms of its impact on young people in Hungary,” Mr Martin said.

“Moral pressure does count and does matter and also asserting European values matters on an issue so fundamental as this. Every avenue needs to be explored in terms of the legal framework within Europe, to pursue this issue.”

Luxembourg’s prime minister Xavier Bettel, who is himself gay, said the law was “unacceptable” and that confronting Mr Orbán on the issue would be his personal fight at the summit.

“The most difficult thing for me was to accept myself, when I realised I was in love with someone of my sex. How to say to my parents, how to say to my family,” Bettel said ahead of the council.

“We have a lot of young people who do suicides because they do not accept themselves how they are. And so to be nationally blamed, to be considered as not normal, to be considered as dangerous, for young people it’s not realising that being gay is not a choice. Being intolerant is a choice, and I will stay intolerant to intolerance.”

Ireland is among 16 member states to jointly condemn the law this week.

Speaking ahead of the summit’s first day, Mr Martin also said the European Union should agree to extend a grace period to allow for unfrozen meats to continue to flow from Britain into Northern Ireland under its post-Brexit arrangements.

The issue is at the centre of a dispute dubbed the ‘sausage war’, and Britain has asked for a waiver of controls due to expire this month to be extended, with awareness in Brussels of the risk of heightening tensions as the peak of the marching season approaches.

“This would be I think, in my view, an important signal in terms of European Union’s willingness to continue to be constructive...The Commission are obviously considering this now. The UK made a request in my view which should be granted,” Mr Martin told journalists.

“This would be the correct thing to do and it would it would be the right thing to do. And I think we need space in the context of Northern Ireland in particular to settle things down.”

Extending the grace period would give an opportunity for both sides to reach agreement on a longer term solution, Mr Martin said, such as alignment by the UK on food plant and animals that would obviate the need for most checks.

“I think the extension of the grace period should be taken as a very positive sign. And as part of that then the UK Government should respond in a proactive way,” he said.