I want to welcome Pride Month as a excellent opportunity for LGBTI+ people to celebrate who they are and for allies to acknowledge their privilege and confirm their support. I feel free to hold hands with my husband in public and this is a freedom which should be available to all without fear of assault, threat or harassment.
In my speech in the Seanad this week, I stated that European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights data from 2020 tells us that 24% of members of LGBTI+ community in Ireland always avoid holding hands in public with same sex partner for fear of violence or harassment. Only 13 % never avoid doing so. That puts myself, my husband and the majority of us, in a very privileged position.
In my speech, I also paid tribute to my Seanad colleague, David Norris for his 50+ years of advocacy for LGBTI+ rights in Ireland. The Victorian-era laws which Senator Norris was instrumental in repealing, criminalised generations of gay and bisexual men. I am proud to be part of a Government which will publish a scheme to disregard convictions for qualifying offences prior to decriminalisation in 1993.
I am excited that in my own constituency there is now a “Laois Pride”, created in partnership with the Midlands LGBT+ Project, and an exhibition was launched this week in Abbeyleix on the changes to the laws regarding LGBTI+ people from 1860 to today.
Committee launched an online survey this week. This looks at the risk and perceptions of gender-based violence and harassment in public amenities such as parks, walks and seating areas. I encourage any Offaly based woman, girl or person who feels at risk of gender based violence or harassment to complete the survey. We need these conversations, we cannot be complacent.