Ireland’s first openly gay Senator honoured at PinkNews Awards

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Irish Senator David Norris was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement at last night’s PinkNews Awards, for his pioneering work across decades.

The Senator was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in the Republic of Ireland back in 1987 – and has been a consistent champion of LGBT rights.

Founding of the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform, he pioneered the country’s early gay rights movement, and led the court challenge that eventually saw the Irish law criminalising homosexuality thrown off the statute books in 1993.

He was also influential during the country’s recent referendum on same-sex marriage – with a landslide in favour of equality.

Ireland’s Ambassador to the UK Dan Mulhall presented Senator Norris with the Lifetime Achievement award for his incredible work.

Senator Norris said: “I’m so honoured and so flattered to be invited here, and I’m very grateful to you for this wonderful award.

“It is a pleasure to be here, particularly in the aftermath of the wonderful Irish marriage referendum.

“I was so utterly moved by the hundreds and thousands of young and middle-aged Irish people who came over – every plane, train and boat was full of Irish people returning in solidarity of our gay citizens to vote in favour of a yes.

“People came from Australia, people came from New York – I was utterly moved. Gays alone, we couldn’t have done it. We relied on our straight co-citizens to work through that wonderful measure of freedom.”

He continued: “I do remember the first pride march we had in Dublin. Last year there were about 75,000 – there were 7 of us on the first march. We marched in single fine, and picketed the British embassy and marched down outside the Department of Justice.

“I remember I had a placard that said ‘the homosexuals are revolting’… the number 46A bus nearly went into the railings when the driver read that!”

Speaking about opposition to same-sex marriage within the Christian church, he joked: “We’ve always made it clear that no church will be required to solemnise a relationship or even give a blessing – but I have to say: bearing in mind that Christian churches routinely bless bombs, tractors, and domestic pets, it wouldn’t hurt them to bless a couple of dykes while they’re at it!

“When you’re blessing a goldfish, how do you know the goldfish aren’t lesbians? With goldfish it’s virtually impossible to tell!”

Summing up the changes in the country, he added: “The recent referendum was remarkable, but the No side were absolutely unspeakable – they lied, they defied the independent referendum commission, they put up the most appalling posters.

“The best poster was one they put up of a lovely nuclear family, man wife and baby all saying ‘no’… and the family got in touch to say they were voting yes!”

Ambassador Mulhall branded the politician an “Irish national treasure”, adding: “I think many Irish people owe him a debt of gratitude – everyone in Ireland who wants to see our country reflect the values that are so important to us.

“He was the first openly gay person ever to be elected to a national parliament, and that was in 1987, when it was still an illegal activity in Ireland. He has campaigned for years for the transformation of Ireland into a more pluralist and more tolerant and more sophisticated society.

“He has played a major role in the evolution in our society – into the kind of place it is today, a place that I am proud to represent and proud to be part of.”

The PinkNews Awards are generously supported by Lloyds Banking Group.

Ireland’s first openly gay Senator honoured at PinkNews Awards