20/06/2018

Minister For Justice Offers 'Sincere Apology' To Those Criminalised For Their Sexuality

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, has offered a sincere apology to men criminalised for the sexuality, prior to Ireland decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1993.

The Minister expressed his strong support for an All-Party motion which acknowledged the harm done by criminalisation of consensual same-sex relationships. Speaking in the Seanad where the motion was introduced, the Minister announced Government support for the motion, he said: "Today Ireland is celebrated around the world for the value which its citizens place on equality, following the same sex marriage referendum, and in recognition of the diversity in our current Cabinet.

"It is doubtless incomprehensible to many, especially to many young people in Ireland today, that there are members of our society who still feels the effects of such discrimination in their daily lives and yet, that is the case. There are people who still feel the isolation, the hurt and the stigma created by those laws, which denied the LGBTI community the ability to live openly or without fear, which denied them the ability to engage actively in civil and public life, and which suggested that society did not value or even tolerate them, simply because of their sexual orientation.

"As Minister for Justice and Equality, I extend a sincere apology to all of those people, to their family, and to their friends. To any person who felt the hurt and isolation created by those laws, and particularly to those who those who were criminally convicted by the existence of such laws."

The motion coincides with the 25th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality through the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993, which was passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas on 24 June 1993. The Act decriminalised consensual same-sex sexual activity between adult males.

The Minister continued: "25 years ago this week, an important step was taken which changed the lives of many people in Ireland. The enactment of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1993 sought to repeal Victorian-era laws which criminalised members of our society, forcing them to conduct their personal and private lives in secret. Homosexual men in Ireland were ostracized, and criminalised, simply because of their sexual orientation.

"These laws caused immeasurable harm. Nothing that can be said here today can undo the unjust suffering and discrimination that the homosexual community experienced in the years prior to decriminalisation. As a Government, we must acknowledge those wrongs, and seek to improve lives for all members of our society so that they can live freely and without fear of discrimination.

"I am delighted to support the motion in this House today, which at its heart, offers an apology to all those affected by the criminalisation of consensual same-sex acts in Ireland prior to 1993. This motion is reflective of the Government’s commitment to ensuring that Ireland is a society for all people, an equal society, and a fair society."

The Taoiseach has also announced that he will host a State event on 24 June 2018, to mark 25 years since decriminalisation.

The all-party motion was first debated in the Seanad and then the Dáil. The Taoiseach addressed the Dáil and Minister Flanagan concluded the debate in the Lower House. In his concluding remarks, Minister Flanagan stated: "Over the last few hours, we have had an important and timely discussion in both Houses of the Oireachtas.

"Many members have made moving and personal contributions. The fact that the Taoiseach was able to speak on this issue in such a personal way is quite a profound reflection of the changes that have taken place in Ireland since 1993.

"Ensuring a free and fair society is an ongoing responsibility for Government and for these Houses. Human rights must be established, and protected. As Minister for Justice and Equality, I, alongside Minister Stanton, and my Government colleagues pledge to work to ensure that all members of our society feel that they are valued and that the legislation in place will protect all against discrimination. We can and should learn lessons from the last 25 years of how a society can advance, and become a more inclusive and diverse society, one which we can all be proud of."

(MH)

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