Amnesty and freedom of conscience

A chara, – On November 20th, Colm O’Gorman and Amnesty Ireland co-signed an open letter published by Transgender Network Ireland in GCN (Gay Community News).

The letter stated, “We call on media, and politicians to no longer provide legitimate representation” for those they designate as holding “bigoted beliefs”.

My grandfather, Seán MacBride, co-founded Amnesty International to support the rights of “prisoners of conscience”, people who are imprisoned for an opinion honestly held that did not advocate or condone personal violence.

Seán MacBride was inspired by his mother Maud Gonne MacBride and her lifetime’s work supporting the rights of political prisoners.


She worked to publicise the plight of political prisoners in the 1890s and later set up the Women’s Prisoner’s Defence league in 1922.

In 1923, she was arrested and imprisoned for parading peacefully while carrying anti-Free State placards.

I am a member of the LGTBI family, and in 2015 I supported legislation that gave trans people the right to self-identify without medical gatekeeping. I have seen the pain and distress trans people suffer through medicalisation and pathologising.

Nonetheless, the convictions I hold around the importance of freedom of speech and the necessity of affording people with differing views and beliefs legitimate representation, dictates that I could never have signed or supported this letter.

I believe that when an international human rights organisation with the reach and influence of Amnesty International signs a letter that seeks to deny legitimate representation to people of conscience, it has a chilling effect on society. – Is mise,


Dublin 4.