Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has rejected an “unspoken assertion” that he had channelled funds to LGBTQ+ organisations because he is gay, and said he had been summoned to the Seanad “on the basis of an absolute lie”.
During ill-tempered clashes in the Seanad today, he said there was an effort under way to “engage in outright misinformation” by members of both the Dáil and the Seanad.
Senator Sharon Keogan had raised the transfer of €1.1 million which was originally allocated to schemes for the Traveller and Roma communities, migrant integration and Magdalene laundry redress to gay and trans’ rights advocacy groups.
She said the funding decisions had led to “accusations of you having engaged in a sort of ideology-based parochialism” and “prioritising pet projects”.
Mr O’Gorman angrily defended himself, and told the Seanad that the transfer was a “standard and commonplace feature of department financial procedure”.
He said there was a “disappointing inference” that there had been an “attempt by me to divert funding away from vulnerable group”.
He said the transfer of unspent funds, known as a virement, had occurred 26 times in his department in the last three years but this was the only transfer he had been asked to account for.
He said that members of both Houses of the Oireachtas had engaged in misinformation and “in doing so, although always implied, always unspoken, the charge rests that I as a gay politician must be up to no good in an effort to benefit my own community. That I would go as far as to take funding away from other vulnerable groups to do so”.
He said this was an “easy villain trope to peddle, and how shamelessly it has been done”.
Since the funding issue had emerged, he said he had been subject to “disgusting allegations: paedophile; groomer; not safe to be around children”.
“Central to those allegations is the accusation that I’ve done something unfounded as regards funding,” he said, adding that last year there had been the highest level of violence towards the LGBT+ community across Europe.
“And here I find myself summoned by you to account to this chamber on the premise of an absolute lie. I think it’s beneath you and it’s beneath this chamber. There’s no possible genuine concern here,” he told Ms Keogan.
“You know the budgetary process, you know how it works. And frankly, I think you should know better.”
Ms Keogan countered that she would condemn any personal remarks against Mr O’Gorman because of his sexuality.
But she added: “Are we to believe that [with] access [to] the multitudes of areas of which you are responsible, none could have done with the extra funding other than [trans rights group] TENI or other LGBT rights [organisations]?”
Mr O’Gorman told the Senator that she had spoken of how she had a voice to raise issues on international women’s day that others don’t.
“I can tell you, I have a voice too, and I won’t allow an assertion like this to be put against me.”