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What’s next for LGBTI+ Ireland?

Number of issues still face the community despite passing of same-sex marriage referendum

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone: ‘We have still work to do when it comes to improving the lives of all LGBTI+ families and young people.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone: ‘We have still work to do when it comes to improving the lives of all LGBTI+ families and young people.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The passing of the same-sex marriage referendum by a very substantial majority may have led the casual observer to believe that the battle for LGBTI rights had been won.

But the war continues, and a number of issues and challenges still face the LGBTI community.

So, what is next for LGBTI Ireland? We asked a number of leading figures what they think are the most important issues and challenges facing the LGBTI community and what we as a country are doing to address them.

Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs

Where any inequality exists, there is no place for complacency! In the last decade, Ireland has emerged as a global leader in LGBTI+ rights.

The passing of the Marriage Equality Referendum in May 2015 was a pivotal moment for LGBTI+ community in Ireland. On that day, the Irish public sent a clear message signalling acceptance, compassion and togetherness with the LGBTI+ people in Ireland.

However, we also know that the legislative change is only one part of the lived experience and that there are gaps in our social infrastructures that need to be addressed before we can reach full equality for LGBTI+ people in Ireland.

The LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy, which I launched last year, was developed with the aim of ensuring that LGBTI+ young people can achieve the same positive outcomes as all young people in Ireland. This is the world’s first LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy.

We have still work to do when it comes to improving the lives of all LGBTI+ families and young people. One in five young LGBTI+ people still face isolation, discrimination and bullying. This is not right. While the Children and Families Relationship Act 2015 that was signed into law over three years ago reformed rights of LGBTI+ families, some parts of the Act have been subject to significant delays that are being worked through. I am committed to ensuring this work remains a priority for this Government.

On the global stage, we continue to speak up for LGBT rights in other countries where LGBTI+ communities are still being criminalised, marginalised and discriminated against. This work will be recognised at World Pride in New York at the end of the month. Then on behalf of the Irish people I will accept a Global Luminary Award. Fifty years on from the Stonewall Riots, on the same streets, our generosity and solidarity will be recognised. With it also comes responsibility to be a leader in an uncertain world where once again minorities are under threat.

LGBT CEO Ireland Paula Fagan: ‘There are a number of important issues affecting the LGBTI+ community.’
LGBT CEO Ireland Paula Fagan: ‘There are a number of important issues affecting the LGBTI+ community.’

Paula Fagan, CEO of LGBT Ireland

I’d like to reference the words of the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, when he spoke last year when he thanked people who “helped change minds and change laws” in 1993 but also said “help is still needed to give all LGBT people full inclusive rights and supports” and I concur with this.

There are a number of important issues affecting the LGBTI+ community; these are in no particular order but are cradle to grave issues for LGBT citizens and families.

Older LGBT people need support, understanding, visibility and recognition. Twenty-six years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland, there still is much more to do to support, care for, recognise and understand older LGBT people across the country.

Older LGBT people are largely invisible within mainstream services at the moment. This is not surprising given that older LGBT people grew up in a time when it was extremely difficult to be open about being lesbian, gay bisexual or transgender and many experienced significant discrimination, stigma and social exclusion.

LGBT Ireland are currently providing training to health and social care services to equip staff with the knowledge, competence and skills to provide inclusive healthcare to older LGBT people. This is particularly important in residential care settings and we are aiming to have at least one LGBT Champion in every nursing home in Ireland by 2022.

Two pieces of vitally important legislation have not yet been passed to give same-sex families legal recognition and protections for their families living now currently in this country.

The Children and Families Relationship Act was passed in 2015 but as yet parts two, three and nine of this legislation have yet to commence, and also causing huge frustration and problems for families is the General Scheme for Assisted Human Reproduction Bill 2017, which was drafted to create long-awaited legal recognition of parentage for same-sex couples, who are not covered under the Act. Meanwhile families are left in limbo with no way to establish a legal relationship between same-sex parents and their children.

Professor Andreas Hoepner, UCD’s College of Business VP of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: ‘Our Pride event is almost the same size as London’s at this stage.’
Professor Andreas Hoepner, UCD’s College of Business VP of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: ‘Our Pride event is almost the same size as London’s at this stage.’

Professor Andreas Hoepner, recently appointed as the UCD college of business VP of equality, diversity and inclusion

From an Irish perspective, we are very well-positioned on diversity. Our votes have been inclusive and progressive but we want to achieve more. Ireland has the chance to ultimately build the west coast in Europe because obviously our neighbours to the east are becoming less diverse; as a result of Brexit, Ireland has the opportunity to become the most diverse “melting pot” in Europe.

Every city wants to have the best and the freshest talent coming in from a business perspective. That means we need to cater for any lifestyle and any diverse lifestyle in particular. Cities are where people with diverse lifestyles like to come as they meet like-minded people. Our Pride event is almost the same size as London’s at this stage. We are not as diverse as London, but we are not that far behind them and we can embrace diversity as a significant issue.

UCD is very much involved in LGBTI issues and we at the college of business are establishing a panel on equality, diversity and inclusion. The focus for us is on overall diversity and LGBT is a hugely important aspect of diversity.

This is the first year that this is happening and we have a whole range of topics we are going to move forward on as we believe diversity is a very significant branding and cultural advantage over UK business schools. With my new title, I sit on the college management team, which includes the dean, the heads of schools, the chief financial officer and the vice presidents for education, research, and EBI. This shows we are treating diversity and LGBTI as being as important as our research and teaching.