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Proud but not safe: The issue of hate crime legislation in Ireland

Words: Eva O’Beirne

It is terrifying to be an LGBTQ+ person right now in Ireland.

And it is more terrifying that the law doesn’t recognise that you can be targeted for being part of the community.

It really is rainbow-washing at its finest. Ireland likes to pride itself on being some kind of queer utopia. Sure didn’t we introduce gay marriage by popular vote?

Being a queer person in Ireland is difficult. In some places, you’re a novelty, in others completely normal, and in some, you are harassed for simply looking a certain way or holding someone’s hand. You can be killed for simply being who you are. This appears to be the case with Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee who were both killed in April of this year.

Evan Somers was severely assaulted on April 10 outside the George, resulting with him being hospitalised with a broken eye socket and two fractures to his ankle. A lesbian couple was attacked at a bus stop in Drumcondra on May 16, with one of the pair being hospitalised.

40 years ago, in Fairview Park, a young man named Declan Flynn was attacked and murdered as part of a series of “queer-bashings”. This was seen as the catalyst for the gay rights movement in Ireland. 40 years later, the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland is still facing the same issues.

All five of Declan Flynn’s killers walked free, and most of them are probably still alive. They were teenagers when they murdered him. Their whole street was allegedly celebrating once the news of the suspended sentences reached the neighbourhood.

All five of Declan Flynn’s killers walked free, and most of them are probably still alive.

District Magazine

There is no real precedent on what to do when a LGBTQ+ person is attacked or murdered in Ireland for being who they are. We have started to see outpourings of grief on a national level, but no urgent calls for change on a Government one. How can we celebrate pride but not be safe from being attacked?

Ireland currently ranks 16th in Europe when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, primarily due to the fact that conversion therapy is still practised in the country and our lack of hate crime legislation. We’ve dropped one place in the rankings since 2021, currently ranking behind the UK at number 14.

We know hate crimes happen frequently in this country. We know that queer people are regularly harassed. We know members of the community have been killed. So what will it take to bring forward legislation that will allow LGBTQ+ people to be protected?

We know that queer people are regularly harassed. We know members of the community have been killed. So what will it take to bring forward legislation that will allow LGBTQ+ people to be protected?

District Magazine

Ireland does not currently have any specific legislation to deal with hate crimes. A judge may consider a hate motive to be an aggravating factor and may reflect this in the given sentence handed down but it will not be reflected anywhere in the formal record of the conviction or sentence.

The Criminal Justice (Hate Crime) Bill 2021 was proposed by Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee last year. But where is the urgency to pass it? There was discussion around the contents of the Bill in April after it was approved, but it is unclear when it will progress further.

At least five major homophobic attacks have occurred in Dublin in the space of a month, with some victims ending up in a critical condition in hospital. Research by the Hate and Hostility Research Group at the University of Limerick in 2019, revealed that one in five of those surveyed had been punched, hit or physically attacked in public for being LGBTQ+ and one in three had been threatened with physical violence. The community has been calling for help for years and these pleas seem to be falling on deaf ears.

One in five of those surveyed had been punched, hit or physically attacked in public for being LGBTQ+ and one in three had been threatened with physical violence.

District Magazine

In response to the brutal attack on June 2, a “citizens assistance project” named the Pink Panthers was established. The volunteer group plans to “take a public presence from 19:00 to 03:00” every Friday and Saturday night in “areas where the queer community socialise” such as Dame Street, George’s Street and Capel Street. They will act as a deterrent to homophobic attacks, as well as provide first aid to victims.

Queer people have resorted to being their own defenders, as this country refuses to be inclusive – unless it’s for Pride Month. Every day, the lack of comprehensive hate crime legislation, the lack of inclusive Relationships and Sexuality Education and the lack of health care let the community down.

Homophobia has deep roots in Irish society. We can’t pretend that it left once marriage equality was achieved in 2015 – and let’s not pretend like there wasn’t a vocal opposition to it either. From equal adoption rights to banning conversion therapy, the community needs allyship more than ever, not just during Pride Month.

How can we be proud but not safe?

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Elsewhere on District: Ireland ranks 16th for LGBTQ+ rights in Europe