Ireland apologises for historical persecution of LGBT people

Ireland is to issue an apology for historical persecution under anti-gay laws.

The Republic of Ireland only decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, five years after its archaic sodomy law was found to be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Prior to decriminalisation, laws dating from the nineteenth century made “buggery” an offence punishable by imprisonment, and gay men in the country lives under a culture of fear.

In a poignant move today, the government of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is set to issue an apology to men who were persecuted under the laws.

The move has a particular resonance as Varadkar is the country’s first openly gay leader, taking office in June 2017.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Charles McQuillan/Getty)

The leader is expected to give a speech before the Dáil today on a Labour Party motion on the issue, tabled by Senator Ged Nash.

The motion is supported across parties.

Nash told HotPress: “This historic motion represents an important reckoning with our past. The State inherited draconian laws we applied over many decades to persecute and prosecute gay men merely for being who they were.

Ireland’s Prime minister Leo Varadkar (LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty)

“It took until 1993 for Irish law makers to show the moral courage to banish these cruel, antiquated and inhumane laws from our statute books.

“Apart altogether from those who were convicted of offences that no longer exist, the chilling effect of having such harsh and discriminatory laws in place had a negative impact on progress towards equality for the LGBTI community.

“Incalculable harm and hurt was caused to countless thousands of citizens of this Republic who were deterred by those laws from being open and honest about their identity with themselves, their family and with society.

“This prevented citizens from engaging fully in civic and political life and deprived society of their full contribution. They were badly wronged by this country, and they and their families are owed an apology.

“I look forward to this powerful statement being made in both Houses of the Oireachtas next Tuesday and I am hopeful that support will be garnered from across the political spectrum.”

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar (Sean Gallup/Getty)

Nash added: “The Labour Party is continuing to work with government to identify ways in which convictions received by men for engaging in sexual activities which are no longer offences can be set aside or disregarded in a legally secure manner.

“As a country, we have made very significant progress on LGBT rights in recent years. However, we still have some way to go before we achieve full equality for LGBTI citizens in Ireland.”

“This motion also represents an opportunity for the Oireachtas to unite to affirm that Ireland should be a country where all LGBTI citizens are free to fully express their identities without fear, prejudice or discrimination and that we put global LGBTI rights at the very centre of our foreign policy.”