Celebrating Belfast pride 2018 - Martin McKiernan

June marks pride month. A month to celebrate sexuality and give the spotlight to our LGBT brothers and sisters. Whilst times have changed, especially in the 26 counties, fundamental rights are still denied by a minority of people in the 6 counties. More people now support same sex marriage (76% according to Sky news) than supported the Good Friday Agreement (71/6%). Whilst the same sex marriage debate opens the discussion on LGBT rights, there is still a long way to go to address the multiple LGBT issues which still exist. 

In our ideology as irish republicans we live by the words of leaders such as Pearse, who read from the steps of the GPO in 1916, that our republic would deliver ‘religious and civil liberties, equal rights and equal opportunities to all of our citizens’’. So to be an Irish republican, you cannot be homophobic. Solidarity to all.

In researching, I discovered an article published in the 1991 winter edition of a captive voice, released via an Phoblacht. Despite my best attempts I couldn’t find the author. Throughout the article it talks about the double oppression faced by gay and lesbian(the terms used at the time) republicans. Many were afraid to come out, worried about the impact on their family and whether or not it would harm the wider movement. The most poignant point for me through the article is that it states that the key for LGBT liberation lies at the heart in the success of national liberation. 27 years on that point could not be as true as it is today. Our constitutional arrangement with Britain, in 2018, is denying LGBT citizens rights.

Even in 1991, the article speaks of breaking down the isolation each gay/lesbian person can feel and how important it is that we must organise and create policies and initiatives that discard the cloak of invisibility. Those issues remain pertinent today. The MHF(Mental Health Foundation) have figures that show for every 2 in 3 LGBT person in the North, they have experienced personal, emotional, behavioural or mental health problems for which they have had to receive professional help. A lot of times these problems can lead to wider issues with LGBT people 3 times more likely to have taken illegal drugs, compared to the wider population. A 2009 HSE study, also showed that those who are  living in the 26 counties have a suicide rate which is 3 times higher than heterosexuals. 

So the job of work for us all, who call ourselves republicans, is evident. In our party we have leading LGBT representatives, in councillors Mary Ellen Campbell (Belfast), Conchur McCauley (Derry) and Senator Fintan Warfield (Dublin). Our youth structures are brimming with energetic, articulate and compassionate republicans fully committed to ending homophobia in Ireland.

So we must get out this month especially, attend our local Pride events, give the Republican perspective and go with a determination to promoting our idea for an Ireland that is committed to ‘liberty, equality and justice for all’. 

Martin McKiernan

Ógra Shinn Féin