Katherine Zappone: Orlando shooting 'an attack on the LGBT community'

Katherine Zappone: Orlando shooting 'an attack on the LGBT community'

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has described the Orlando murders as an "attack" on both LGBT people and humanity itself, writes Elaine Loughlin.

Ms Zappone, a US citizen, has said people must stand up against such a terror attack - which has claimed the lives of more than 50 people - and hoped that it would force the American Government to tighten gun laws.

"I am just extremely distressed, I suppose, both as someone who has been an advocate for LGBT issues here but especially now I speak personally as an American citizen.

"It's a terrible, terrible day for America," she said.

The US flag flies above Cork's City Hall in memory of the Orlando shooting victims. A book of condolence will open in City Hall tomorrow at 9.15am.
The US flag flies above Cork's City Hall in memory of the Orlando shooting victims. A book of condolence will open in City Hall tomorrow at 9.15am.

Speaking at the launch of the 'It's Good to Talk' campaign in conjunction with the LGBT Helpline and Eir, Ms Zappone said people should "stand tall and resist" such attacks which took place at a gay nightclub.

She agreed that the LGBT people would feel under attack as a result of the mass murder which has been linked to ISIS.

"Yes of course they would feel under attack, I feel it, I think it is something to do with our identity but at the same time we live in a country where we are freer today than we were a year ago."

She added: "Obviously LGBT people don't have freedom throughout the world and that's why it's so critical and important that those of us who do and experience equality stand up in solidarity and say 'no' and resist that, and express our horror in relation to what has happened."

Ireland’s three National LGBT Organisations BeLonG To, GLEN and TENI expressed their shock and horror at the shooting.

They said: "Speaking on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Ireland, our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the survivors and friends, families and loved ones of those who died.

"The gay club, the beating heart of many LGBT+ people’s social lives, is a sanctuary for LGBT people all over the world. For generations, many LGBT people fleeing rejection, oppression and abuse have found the gay club or bar to be a refuge where they can feel safe, where they can be themselves without worrying about the repercussion they may experience in the home, in school or in the streets.

"As well as the unspeakably tragic loss of 50 of our family, that very sanctuary came under attack on Sunday morning. But we are proud. The LGBT+ community is no stranger to violent attacks and we will, as we have had to do before, harness the aftermath, the grieving, the anger, into something positive that has made the next generation’s lives better."

They went on to urge the LGBT community to not be afraid.

They said: "Let us remember that LGBT Muslims are equally as terrified of an indiscriminately homophobic killer as anyone else, but are now likely to face increased racism as a result of this attack. One of the most powerful acts of solidarity we witnessed in the wake of the attack came from The Council on American-Islamic Relations in the US, an Islamic civil rights group, urging Muslims in the area to donate blood.

"Let’s make this tragedy bring our diverse intersectional communities together, not tear it apart.

"We know that Irish LGBT people can and do experience verbal and physical attacks because of who they are, or are perceived to be. No right thinking person in Ireland would justify those, and it is now a moment for all of us to commit to ensuring that we wipe out homophobia, transphobia and biphobia from all corners of Ireland. "

The groups said they are holding a rainbow vigil at 6.45pm tonight at Barnardo’s Square, beside City Hall on Dame Street in Dublin for the victims of the shooting.

They have urged anyone feeling distressed since the incident to reach out to the National LGBT Helpline on www.lgbt.ie/ or 1890 929 539.

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