Ireland no ’global leader’ on gay rights - in 15th place on equality ’rainbow map’

Minister says ’other countries with hate crime law have major problems - we do not’

Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield said the State ranks just 15th out of 49 countries on a European ‘rainbow map’ because hate crime legislation to protect LGBTI people continues to be conspicuous by its absence. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield said the State ranks just 15th out of 49 countries on a European ‘rainbow map’ because hate crime legislation to protect LGBTI people continues to be conspicuous by its absence. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Ireland is not the global leader on gay rights many think it is but ranks just 15th out of 49 countries on a European “rainbow map”, the Seanad has heard.

Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield said the State ranks just 15th because“hate crime legislation to protect LGBTI people continues to be conspicuous by its absence”.

Minister of State for Equality David Stanton said however that “other countries in which there is hate crime legislation in place have major problems but we do not”.

The Minister acknowledged that it might be a different story “if we were to start digging, but on the face of it we have a lot to be proud of”.

Mr Warfield appealed to Mr Stanton to introduce hate crime legislation and said that “every western European jurisdiction, with the exception of this State, has implemented robust hate legislation”.

The ’rainbow map’ is an annual study conducted by the International Lesbian Gay, Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), which ranks countries on their equality laws and policies and Ireland slipped in rankings because there is no hate crime law.

Mr Warfield said “although many may consider Ireland a global leader in that regard, as it often is, the State was ranked 15th by the study”.

He said one in three LGBT couples “will still not hold hands on the street”.

He and his boyfriend had crossed the road many times, mainly at night, when we had a particular concern about what might be up ahead.

“Perhaps it is just in our minds, but homophobia is rife, despite legislative change.”

No specific charges

The Dublin Senator pointed out that hate crime affected more than the gay community.

He said “we have no way of bringing specified charges against individuals who specifically target minorities on the basis of racism, homophobia, ableism or other bigoted biases”.

Mr Stanton however said Ireland had much to be proud of in becoming a much more diverse and open society “which is a sign of our place in the world”.

He insisted there was no place for hate crimes in Irish society and the Government was committed to ensuring “they will be dealt with robustly through the criminal law”.

And he pointed to a “wide body of existing criminal law which is used to combat hate crimes”.

The Minister stressed that the 1989 Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act created the offence of incitement to hatred and carried penalties of up to two years imprisonment or up to €25,400 in fines.

He said targeting people because of their identity and difference is not acceptable and added that “it is very important that such activities or crimes be reported to Garda ethnic liaison officers or the local Garda station”.

Mr Warfield said, however, that while the Minister said such crimes should be reported “that requires somebody to be out of the closet and to have confidence in the police force”.