Ireland set for award at World Pride festival for LGBTI leadership

Ireland is set to receive an award at World Pride in New York next month for its leadership in the support of the LGBTI community, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

Children’s minister Katherine Zappone said she will travel to New York to accept the luminary award on behalf of the country at the festival, which will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in the city.

The 1969 riots helped fuel the fight for modern LGBTI rights worldwide.

The minister was before the Children’s Committee on Wednesday to discuss the LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy.

It is a cliche to say that Ireland is a changed country – but it is important to acknowledge that recent changes did lead to positive comments from our young people

“It is 50 years since members of the LGBTI+ community asserted their rights on the streets of New York with the Stonewall riots,” she told TDs and senators.

“Next month on those same streets Ireland’s leadership will be acknowledged.

“At World Pride we will be honoured as a nation with a luminary award.”

She said Ireland was now “a leading voice, a recognised global leader, for LGBTI+ rights”.

But she said with this honour came responsibilities.

She added that TDs and senators should “never shirk away” from their duty to protect the rights of the community.

Ms Zappone told the committee it was “fitting and timely” that she provided an update on the national LGBTI youth strategy as the world prepared to mark the 50th anniversary.

“I had just fallen in love at that time, I was a young teenager, her name was Katherine too,” she said.

The Government launched the national strategy last year with the aim of improving the lives of LGBT youth across the country.

It was compiled after consultation with more than 4,000 young people and campaigners.

“It is a cliche to say that Ireland is a changed country – but it is important to acknowledge that recent changes did lead to positive comments from our young people,” she said.

Marriage equality, the Gender Recognition Act and even the fact that we are leading the world again with the youth strategy itself have all led to strong feelings of inclusivity. But if our goal is a fully inclusive, equal and fair society – we are not there yet.

“During the consultations, young LGBTI+ people acknowledged that discrimination and stigma, cases of bullying and harassment and a sense of isolation and exclusion continue.”

The committee heard that since the implementation of the strategy additional youth services have been provided, including extra LGBTI+ specific youth worker hours, the establishment of transgender groups, sexual health programmes, one-to-one and group support, art and drama projects, rural networking events, a parent peer support network and trans parents information day.

Ms Zappone said her department was working with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) on the reform of relationships and sexuality education (RSE) in schools.

Asked by Sinn Fein TD Denise Mitchell whether she was hopeful that “real change” to the RSE curriculum would take place, Ms Zappone said yes, she was hopeful.

Ms Mitchell said a review of the curriculum was important for “consent, for understanding the diversity of relationships and about safe sex”.

Ms Zappone said the department had held a consultation with young people recently on the matter and they were in the process of preparing a report which would form part of the NCCA’s discussions with the education minister on the matter.

- Press Association

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