Skip to content
Impact

Ireland Apologizes to LGBTQ People Arrested Under Historical Laws Criminalizing Gay Sex

Ireland has offered a formal apology to gay and bisexual men convicted under the country’s defunct laws criminalizing homosexuality.

Openly gay Prime Minister Leo Varadkar gave a heartfelt speech on Tuesday to members of the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish legislature, in which he claimed the centuries-long convictions for same-sex intercourse had a “chilling effect” on Ireland’s LGBTQ community.

“While the state’s laws affected gay men in a legal sense, they had a chilling effect on lesbians as well,” Varadkar told lawmakers, as originally reported by the state-run broadcaster RTE.

Although the Taoiseach claimed the Irish government cannot erase the grievous harm caused by the sodomy laws—which were lifted in 1993 following two decades of advocacy from local LGBTQ leaders—the claimed the Emerald Isle has “learned as a society from their suffering.”

“Their stories have helped change us for the better,” said Varadkar, who was tapped as the country’s first gay PM last year. “They have made us more tolerant, more understanding, and more human.”

The declaration was supported by each of Ireland’s political parties in honor of the 25th anniversary of the sodomy law’s repeal. Ged Nash, a representative of the Irish Labour Party in the Senate, proposed the motion. He claimed that the parliamentary declaration represents an “important reckoning” with Ireland’s legacy on LGBTQ rights,

In an interview with Hot Press prior to Varadkar’s address, Nash called the prosecution of homosexuality “cruel, antiquated, and inhumane.”

“Incalculable harm and hurt was caused to countless thousands of citizens of this Republic who were deterred by those laws from being open and honest about their identity with themselves, their family and with society,” the lawmaker said. “This prevented citizens from engaging fully in civic and political life and deprived society of their full contribution.”

“They were badly wronged by this country, and they and their families are owed an apology,” he added.

But in speeches delivered on Tuesday, Irish lawmakers also credited the LGBTQ advocates who fought to strike down the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act and the 1885 Criminal Law Act, which served to criminalize homosexuality.

David Norris, now a Senator, filed a lawsuit to repeal the laws in a case originally filed in 1977. The Ireland Supreme Court originally ruled in 1983’s David Norris v. The Attorney General that the criminal codes did not violate the country’s constitution. That ruling was overturned by the European Court of Human Rights in 1988—paving the way for full decriminalization five years later.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan called Norris’ legal challenge a “brave, first step towards the decriminalisation of homosexual relationships, and is one which is widely recognised as the critical step that led to the [1993 Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act].”

“The impact and significance of that challenge cannot be underestimated,” Flanagan claimed.

Ireland is just one of several countries in recent years that have apologized to the members of the LGBTQ community for prior convictions under historical laws criminalizing same-sex behavior or pardoned those targeted by the criminal codes. These municipalities include Canada, Scotland, and most recently the Australian state of Queensland.

Germany announced in 2016 it would pay out more than 30 million Euros in reparations to gay men criminalized under Paragraph 175, a Nazi-era law that wasn’t formally struck down until 1994.

Ireland’s apology, however, will not include monetary compensation to LGBTQ victims of its sodomy laws.

Tags: News, Politics
Read More