'It did cause harm to LGBT people': David Gough explains why he called out Colm O'Rourke

All-Ireland football final referee David Gough has explained his criticism of Colm O'Rourke over his use of a homophobic phrase on RTÉ.

David Gough
David Gough

During a discussion on the black card rule last Sunday week, O'Rourke said removing contact from football would turn it into a "namby-pamby pansy-boy" game. Gough took to Twitter to outline his disgust, calling the language "abhorrent and unacceptable".

Last night, Gough said he felt the need to speak out having spent an hour in O'Rourke's company a fortnight previous at St Pat's, Navan, to deliver a talk about his coming-out story.

The challenge he made to the 320 students was to avoid the "pejorative use of homophobic language around their friends... to create a safer and more inclusive environment for LGBT students to come out".

"If you look back at the tweet it was very specific and I took my time in composing it," Gough told RTÉ 2fm.

"I called out what I said was the pejorative use of homophobic language, which was meant to be a throw-away remark.

"I’ve known Colm since I was 12 years of age. I went to school [where] he was my manager at St Pat’s in Navan, and he’s been a huge champion of my refereeing and my abilities on the football field over many, many years.

I would be the first to say that Colm meant no harm and he’s not homophobic, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it did cause harm to people from the LGBT community and that needs to be recognised.

"It was very unfortunate that it was broadcast on national TV.

"I have been lucky enough to survive a very private and a very public coming out over the last nine years and there is almost an obligation on me to ensure that many other people in the LGBT community won’t face those challenges in the future.

"I have been one of those people who have listened to that type of pejorative use of homophobic language in dressing rooms and in GAA grounds around Slane and Navan, and around the country, and I thought it was the right thing to do to call it out.

"Colm may not have known that the language was a homophobic slur but we need to be big enough to be able to say that it is, that we have learned from it, and we move on.

Colm O'Rourke
Colm O'Rourke

"Equally I might not know if someone is suffering from a racist slur or a sectarian slur because I’m not educated in what is offensive to them. But if someone said that to me, I would apologise immediately, learn from it, and move on.

"That’s the greatest thing we can take out of this, that there is a learning process, people were educated around it and we can just move on from it."

Gough believes there's a toxic culture in male sports which has caused a shortage of LGBT role models compared to female sports.

"LGBT matters are something that's very close to my heart and something I would have struggled with for a very long time. If we don't stand up for those who may not be able to stand up for themselves, nothing will change.

There's only myself and Conor and Donal Óg (Cusack) in gay male sports in the country at the moment. There's plenty of female advocates and it seems to be so normal for lesbian athletes to come out and be totally accepted.

"You could count on one hand, Nigel Owens, Gareth Thomas, Tom Daley, and then people would struggle to name any more.

"If we want to create that more inclusive environment, and we are telling you it's not an inclusive environment and this language is hurting us, we need to be listened to.

"This language does hurt people and it does stop us coming out in what is a very toxic masculine society within male sports in the country, and particularly within the GAA."

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