‘My country finally recognised me for who I really am’

After long battle, Lydia Foy receives Irish birth certificate recognising her female gender

Transgender rights activist Lydia Foy has finally received an Irish birth certificate after a 22-year legal battle for recognition in Ireland of her female gender.

“My country has finally recognised me for who I really am,” she said.

Dr Foy received her certificate, the first such certificate issued here, on the same day she received a European Parliament Medal of Honour, presented by Sinn Féin MEPs at a ceremony in Dublin.

Martina Anderson, Lynn Boylan, Matt Carthy and Liadh Ni Riada had nominated Dr Foy as European Citizen for 2015 and she was selected by a panel that included former European Commission president Jose Barroso.


The only Irish recipient of the European Citizens award for 2015, it will be formally presented to her at a ceremony in Brussels next month. Her long legal battle began in 1997 when Dr Foy, having been refused a female birth certificate from 1993, approached the Free Legal Advice Centres for help.

In 2007, the High Court found the State's failure to enact laws recognising her acquired female gender was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The case was later re-introduced due to delays in introducing the necessary legislation, but effectively settled last November on terms including the High Court being told the Government would enact the necessary laws "as soon as possible" in 2015.

Speaking at the ceremony in Dublin, a delighted Dr Foy said she was “deeply honoured” to be given the Medal of Honour and regarded it “as a tribute to all those who have helped us to become equal citizens of this State”.

“This is a great day for me and for the Trans community in Ireland,” she said.

Showing the certificate, she said: “ With this piece of paper and after 22 years of struggle, my country has finally recognised me for who I really am, not for what other people think I should be.”

She was “especially pleased for young Trans people that they will not have to go through the pain, the isolation, the lack of understanding and the abuse that my generation had to endure”.

She thanked the four MEPs for proposing her; FLAC, for its legal representation; and TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland), “a great support to me in more recent years”.

Dr Foy also thanked Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Joan Burton and Minister of State Kevin Humphreys "who carried through the Gender Recognition Act" and all who helped ensure the Act was passed and became "one of the most progressive transgender laws in Europe".

FLAC solicitor Michael Farrell paid tribute to Dr Foy's "courage and tenacity" and said, without her, "there would be no Gender Recognition Act".

FLAC Director General Noeline Blackwell said Dr Foy had shown "extraordinary bravery and sacrifice as a litigant in the public interest" and thoroughly deserved her "exceptional honour" from the European Parliament.

FLAC was “extremely proud to have been part of this historic, ground-breaking case”, she added.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times