Respecting all sexual identities
BY MITCHEL McLAUGHLIN (Sinn Féin National Chairperson)
For republicans, the Ireland of the 21st century must celebrate our
diversity and see all of our people going forward as equals. And we
advance this philosophy within our party, within our communities, on
the streets and in political life.
A truly independent Ireland is one where all the children of the
nation have the freedom and resources to determine their own future -
politically, economically, culturally, socially and sexually.
Sinn Féin was the first Irish political party to campaign against the
criminalisation of homosexuality, following a resolution at our Ard
Fheis in the early 1980s. We were the first Irish political partiy to
develop a comprehensive policy document on lesbian, gay and bisexual
rights. And since then we have consistently advocated, at every level
of political life, the rights of all people to live their lives free
from homophobia and prejudice as a result of their sexual orientation.
Sinn Féin is still the only major Irish political party to take part
in Gay Pride marches throughout the country.
Of course, our support for lesbian and gay equality has not been a
one-way street. Throughout the years, many within the lesbian and gay
community have stood shoulder to shoulder with republicans in the
fight for justice, equality and freedom. From Bloody Sunday to the
Hunger Strikes and beyond, the presence of lesbian and gay rights
solidarity banners at republican marches has been a constant feature.
Our party has also developed close working relationships with a number
of lesbian and gay support organisations throughout the country. Sinn
Féin's Minister for Education, Martin McGuinness, has publicly
endorsed the Rainbow Gay Men's Health Project anti-bullying campaign
launched at the end of last year. Sinn Féin Deputy Mayor Marie Moore
had the honour of being the first Belfast civic leader to host a
reception from the community during the launch of Belfast Pride in
At a more local level, Sinn Féin assists support organisations in a
range of day-to-day issues, from housing matters to violence against
the lesbian and gay community. We have consistently campaigned around
health issues such as HIV/AIDS, safer sex, rural isolation, drug and
alcohol misuse, and the psychological impact of homophobia, often
resulting in suicide, especially among young gay men.
This is not to say that there still isn't much to be done. We have a
long way to go before we fully realise the responsibilities and
obligations contained in our 1996 policy document, Moving On.
In recommending this document to our Ard Fheis in 1996, I said: ``It is
not good enough to simply adopt this document. We need to absorb the
arguments and then project and implement them. We need to continue to
educate ourselves and others. We need to become conscious of implicit
exclusion as well as explicit exclusion. We need to become aware of
ignorance and prejudice within ourselves and our own party as well as
within society in general.''
We need to continue with this process both inside our party and among
our broader support base, but we are committed and we have shown
leadership on these issues over the years.
It is important to remember that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are
not a community set apart. In every community, in every locality and
in every political party, there are lesbian, gay and bisexual people
who are denied equality. Sinn Féin has a responsibility to ensure
that, within its own party and the wider community that we represent,
second-class citizenship is not acceptable, and that the rights of
lesbian, gay and bisexual people are not negotiable.
As a republican party, our core demand is Irish independence. But
independence for the Irish nation means independence for the citizens
of that nation, both as individuals and as specific communities. A
truly independent Ireland is one where all the children of the nation
have the freedom and resources to determine their own future -
politically, economically, culturally, socially and sexually. The
basis of this philosophy is contained in the 1916 Proclamation and the
Programme of the First Dail. It has been the foundation of our
political thought and practice ever since.
Ours is a struggle for equality, as a nation and as citizens of that
nation. All those struggling for equality, in whatever way, in
whatever field, are our comrades in struggle. Together we will achieve
our long fought for dream - an Irish republic which cherishes all of
its children, not in spite of their sexuality but because of it.