Republican News · Thursday 18 November1999

[An Phoblacht]

Sinn Féin slams Irish News censorship

Assembly member Mary Nelis, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Human Rights, has called for a public explanation from the Irish News following that paper's rejection of an advertisement for `National Coming Out Day', which is taking place this weekend.

The Irish News accepted and then rejected a commercial advertisement for a 24-hour freephone line which will provide lesbians and gay men with coming out and counselling services.

Nelis said: ```National Coming Out Day' is an important event aimed at combating homophobia and improving the quality of life for lesbians and gay men. Countering discrimination and prejudice which affects the gay community is something that all right minded people must stand up for.''

She explained the situation leading up to the incident, saying: ``It has been brought to my attention that the Irish News, the Belfast Telegraph and the Newsletter were all approached by the organisers of the Coming Out Day with a view to carrying a commercial ad including a 24-hour phone line. The funding for the ad came from the `National Lottery Fund'.

``Having accepted the ad, the Irish News subsequently refused to carry it and informed the organisers of the Coming Out Day that being a `family newspaper' it would be inappropriate for them to include the advertisement.

``This is a blatant act of homophobia and prejudice. It is a sign of political immaturity and will negatively effect both the lesbian and gay community and the success of Coming Out Day. It is a decision one would expect from right wing fundamentalists, not a modern liberal newspaper''.

Nelis has demanded a public explanation from the Irish News. She has branded the paper's action as a disgrace and has called on the Irish News to publicly apologise to the organisers of the day and the lesbian and gay community as a whole.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Deputy Mayor for Belfast Marie Moore has called on all politicians, community groups, trade unions and individuals to support the Coming Out Day. ``As we enter the 21st century, it is time to leave all prejudices and discriminations of the past behind us,'' she said. ``We are entering a new era in which there can be no place for homophobia. As we resolve the causes of conflict in our country, we must build a society inclusive of all its citizens, and that includes the lesbian, gay and bisexual community''.

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