06 December 2016

Labour spokesperson on Equality, Senator Ged Nash, will today introduce a Bill to the Seanad that seeks to have the state recognise the need to exonerate and apologise to gay men who were convicted of sexual offences before 1993.

The Conviction for Certain Sexual Offences (Apology and Exoneration) Bill 2016 states that the convictions are discriminatory, contrary to dignity and in breach of personal privacy and autonomy, and applies in consensual cases and involving those of the legal age.

Senator Nash said:

“An important part of delivering equality is coming to terms with the past. Just as new child protection procedures had to be accompanied by a reckoning for historical child abuse, justice requires that the same be true in other areas.

“Our State inherited from Britain the draconian laws we applied over the decades to persecute and prosecute gay men in particular.  It took until the 1990s for Irish legislators to find the moral courage to do anything about this.

“In that time, hundreds of Irish citizens – our brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins and friends – were convicted under our cruel and antiquated homophobic laws. These Irish citizens who were harassed and tormented by a State and culture that officially treated them with hostility, derision and ridicule. They are owed an apology.

“As is happening in England and Wales and even Northern Ireland, law-makers here should support legislation to apologise to and exonerate those who were convicted of sexual offences before 1993, who would be innocent of committing any crime today.

“Nothing we do or say now will ever truly make up for the hurt and marginalisation which official Ireland imposed on gay citizens for decades, and which caused so many people to live with a crushing and enduring fear of being ‘found out’.  But in apologising for what we did in the past, and acknowledging that it was wrong, we might ease some of that pain.”


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