19 February 2016

Speaking at the launch of Labour’s equality plan:

“I’m delighted to have the opportunity to speak to you today, at the launch of these proposals.

I am proud to be here as a former Deputy Leader, a Labour Party member, and as a member of Labour Women.

The Labour Party has a long and honourable record when it comes to the struggle for womens’ rights. We have been at the forefront in the fight for equality. It is a core value. It defines what we stand for as a party.

And it hasn’t always been easy. It took the Labour party in Government to deliver abortion legislation – at last – and to bring our law in line with our Constitution. Without Labour that law would be still unwritten and womens’ lives would still be at risk.

So it’s appropriate that today’s event is following on yesterday’s launch of our proposal to repeal the 8th Amendment.

We are the only party offering itself for government that is proposing to do so.

That makes me proud.

Repeal of the 8th Amendment is an issue that impacts on women’s health.

As a former Spokesperson on Health I see the issue in those terms.

But I also see it as issue of equality.

And equality is one of the main reasons that I got involved in politics fifty years ago.

Now there is a whole new generation of women putting themselves forward to election. Lots of them. The lamp posts are plastered with their posters. Gender balance has been introduced in this Election. It is an important step forward and it only happened because Labour is in Government.

Without the Labour party there would be no breakthrough for candidates. Of course being a candidate is only a start.

For politics to work, women must be full participants at every level.

As a role model, we are fortunate to have, in Joan Burton, a leader who is intelligent, passionate and articulate. And who is also a woman.

We still have a way to go, as women, to achieve full equality but the Labour Party is playing a central role in breaking down the barriers.

Women need the Labour Party in government to lead on issues that make a real and significant impact on our lives.

One other area I want to particularly mention today is the need to continue our work to deliver equality for LGBT people.

The Marriage Equality referendum was a momentous milestone in Irish society, and we are proud of our work in delivering the referendum, and working with so many activists to win it.

We ended the discrimination against LGBT people working in our schools.

And we passed the Gender Recognition Act.

The Children & Family Relationships Act represented another milestone in protecting and cherishing all family types.

Now we are saying clearly that Labour will commence all sections of the Children and Family Relationships Act.

We will review the Gender Recognition Act in 2017, to make sure it is working for all those who need to have their true gender officially recognised.

And perhaps most importantly, we will put a national LGBT strategy in place for the first time.

Our Ministers have done incredible work over recent years to change our rules and legislation to end discrimination.

Now we have another job to do – to change our culture.

This new national strategy will focus on tackling hate crimes; eradicating discrimination in workplaces and schools; and improving the mental and sexual health of LGBT people.

For older gay men whose consensual relationships were criminalised for so long, we will expunge their criminal records, and apologise for the wrong that was done to them.

Labour has always been to the fore in campaigning for the rights of LGBT people.

It is clear from this policy document, and from the manifesto, that the Labour Party will continue to fight for greater equality for all.”



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