President Higgins calls for freer, safer society following Sligo killings

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Galway Daily news President Higgins calls for freer, safer society following Sligo killings

President Michael D Higgins has said that more needs to be done to create a society where LGBTQI+ people are able to freely and safely express their identity.

The President delivered a message of support for the LGBTQI+ community in Ireland following the killing of two men in Sligo this week.

Vigils have taken place across the country in memory of Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee in the past few days, including one in Eyre Square on Saturday evening.

President Higgins said that it has been “greatly heartening” to see the public outpouring of solidarity with the LGBTQI+ community following these terrible crimes, and expressed his of “support and condolences” to those personally affected.

However, he also said that these events should make people pause and reflect on whether the public space is one that is truly equal for LGBTQI+ people.

Whether they have equal freedom of “behaviour, freedom and the expression of affection”, and the safety for all of them.

The marriage equality referendum was a “significant milestone” in granting “equal legal recognition” Michael D Higgins said, but homophobic abuse remains.

“Heartbreakingly, we hear friends or family members telling us that they do not feel comfortable holding the hand of their partner, of their husband or their wife, in public.”

“This suggests an environment which somehow allows that while under the law someone’s sexuality will be tolerated, its expression must not be allowed. We must do better.”

The challenge facing Irish society is to address the roots of what is sustaining this abuse and exclusion he said, and deliver equality in more than just law.

The President’s full statement reads:

“So many of all our thoughts over recent days have been with our LGBTQI+ community and it is greatly heartening to see the outpouring of solidarity with them. I know this will have provided comfort to many people in what is a time of great distress, and I would like to express my deepest support and condolences to all those who have been directly impacted by a number of appalling recent events.

It is important that we take this opportunity to reflect more deeply on the public space which we are creating as a society, and the freedom and safety within it. When it comes to behaviour, freedom and the expression of affection, ask the question if it is an equal space for members of the LGBTQI+ community?

Seven years ago next month, we will recall how the public voted in overwhelming numbers to extend full and equal marriage rights to members of the LGBTQI+ community. This was an important and significant milestone and was a clear statement by the people of Ireland that all are entitled to equal legal recognition of their relationships, no matter what their sexual orientation is.

Yet seven years later, when it comes to behaviour, we still hear far too regularly of members of the gay community being faced with homophobic comments and slurs, often unchallenged. Heartbreakingly, we hear friends or family members telling us that they do not feel comfortable holding the hand of their partner, of their husband or their wife, in public. This suggests an environment which somehow allows that while under the law someone’s sexuality will be tolerated, its expression must not be allowed. We must do better.

Beyond the recent horrific events lies perhaps a challenge to address the lethargy which is impeding the fullest expression of themselves as citizens by members of the LGBTQI+ community in Irish society. As we go forward, it is surely necessary to address the roots of the assumptions that are sustaining these exclusions and such authoritarian actions in our communities and to consider what individual and collective actions we can take to provide a freer, diverse and inclusive space in our communities built on respect for equality and difference, not just in our laws but in our words and actions. In doing so, we will all benefit from the delivery of such full participation of our shared lives by all our citizens.”