Fine Gael politicians are receiving more emails on trans issues than on the eviction ban, with calls for a party discussion on the topic made at a meeting of the parliamentary party on Wednesday evening.
Former minister Paul Kehoe telling his parliamentary party colleagues that he was receiving more representations on the issue than on the Government’s decision not to extend the eviction ban.
Sources present at the meeting said members discussed the complexity of the issue and that some were “unsure how to address issues on it”.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who last week commented on the issue of trans women in female prisons, said it was “better to discuss the issue than not” but noted the topic had been polarising opinion in the United States and in Britain.
The meeting also heard contributions on the issue, including calls for a wider discussion to be had within the party, from Josepha Madigan, Senator Micheál Carrigy, Alan Farrell, Seán Kyne, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill and Charlie Flanagan.
Mr Flanagan told his colleagues that there are “delicate and sensitive issues” across health, education and prisons that “needed to be discussed”, warning that there should not be a “rush” to change legislation on self-identification “without careful consideration and debate”.
He said other jurisdictions are “having a reassessment”, adding that Ireland should not rush and should favour a “calm and reasoned debate” which includes all interests.
Party chairman Richard Bruton gave an undertaking to consider a forum for a debate on the matter, sources said.
Senator Seán Kyne told the meeting he hoped the referendum on removing references to a woman’s place in the home from the Constitution didn’t get “bogged down” on issues like the definition of a woman, and was said to have received support from Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan on the point.
As part of a discussion on the complexity of the issue, and how it was complicated by matters such as questions over how many genders there are, Mr Kyne also referenced remarks by UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who said that the “vast majority” of women “don’t have a penis” and need safe spaces.
Some contributors referenced former Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s difficulties on the topic.
Mr Varadkar also repeated his assertion made in the Dáil earlier that the Government is “built to last” and the next two years needed to be “used well to keep the economy strong, create more jobs, protect the squeezed middle and put money back in people’s pockets”.
He said there needed to be faster progress in housing “above all else” and that there was “no time to waste on the issue”.
The Taoiseach said the report of the Independent Group on the Defence Forces was “quite shocking and that previous attempts to address these issues had failed”.
He said a full public inquiry would begin as soon as it could be done properly. The meeting also heard Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe is working with Minister for Education Norma Foley on school-building projects that have been delayed due to rising costs.