With arms wide open

With arms wide open

Beyond leprechauns, four-leaf clovers and the blarney stone, Ireland is known for its welcoming hospitality with locals always up for a bit of craic.

Dublin-raised Conor (not his real name) believes the new-found freedom enjoyed by the Irish gay and lesbian population is attributed to the country opening its doors to the rest of the world.

Many international people are moving to Dublin to take advantage of the good economic situation, Conor said. Even when Poland joined the EU in 2005, many gay Poles flooded into Dublin.

To cater for this extra demand, more gay bars opened, which increased the visibility of the gay culture in the country.

As I talk to my friends, more and more gay boys now feel comfortable enough to come out of the closet at a younger age, he said.

Dublin’s gay pride parade is now recognised as a date on the calendar and the city recently hosted the Gay Rugby World Cup.

The gay scene today in Ireland is a far cry from Conor’s own experiences growing up in Dublin only a decade ago. He describes a monoculture that was insular and relatively isolated from the rest of the world.

Gay was never talked about when I was a child. I can’t ever remember anyone saying, -˜My son is gay.’ It was not open to discussion, Conor said.

The only time Conor heard homosexuality discussed was in the context of upholding the Catholic religion.

I heard that gays would go to hell. That really turned me off.

Ireland decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, after the law was challenged in a European Court as being incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The recent societal shift in acceptance has been echoed with the introduction of anti-discrimination legislation beginning in 1998.

The only exception to complete anti-discrimination is Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act that allows religious, medical or educational institutions to take action against employees that undermine the religious ethos.

Religion is the biggest headache gay people face in Ireland, said Conor.

Conor believes there are too many obstacles for the government to enact same-sex marriage laws.
Brian Lenihan, the former Irish Justice Minister, said in 2007 that the Irish constitution would prohibit same-sex marriage.

I believe equality for same-sex couples can be achieved through a diversity of legal arrangements -¦ we should proceed now to bring in a law that will give recognition and protection to same-sex couples who are involved in loving stable relationships, Lenihan said.

The United Kingdom famously passed civil union legislation in 2004. Conor could enter into a civil union in Belfast, still on Irish soil but under the governance of the UK. However, the history between the Republic and the North is too much of an impediment for Conor to consider that option.

It wouldn’t be appreciated if I got married in Belfast. My family wouldn’t be impressed and probably wouldn’t come to the wedding, he said.

Conor, now 25, left Ireland when he was 20 on a student visa.

I saw on the television show, Australia Uncovered, a segment about the gay scene in Sydney and how open it was. It looked so amazing, he said.

Sydney has been better than expected. I am free to do whatever I want. Australia has given me the courage to be me, to be stronger.

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2 responses to “With arms wide open”

  1. Great article Lyndon, as always! I’m happy to see that our current government in Ireland (most likely championed by the inclusion of the Green Party in government for the first time) has included legislating for civil partnerships in the program for government, signed off by the heads of all three parties which entered into government. However, the community in Ireland still continues to call for full equality, including marriage. As it stands, the institution of ‘marriage’ is protected under the Irish constitution, which has been the basis for any rulings against challenges to law as it stands. I hope that cases such as the ‘KAL’ case: Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan’s fight to have their Canadian marriage recognised in Ireland (currently on appeal with the supreme court), pressure from the introduction of civil partnerships in the UK and hopefully some kind of legislative move by the EU to recognise same sex couples, any and all of this should help to bring equality and protection to same-sex couples, which will be in everyone’s interest. And hey, we could even get it before Australia!! How weird would that be? lol

  2. -œSydney has been better than expected. I am free to do whatever I want.”…unless of course you wish to have a civil ceremony or bring your same sex partner on a student visa, investment visa or retirement visa etc. Apart from that Sydney is a mighty damn fine place and I love it too.