Gay Limerick councillor highlights dangerous culture of homophobia

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Limerick Labour Party councillor Conor Sheehan

THE horrific killings of Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee in Sligo last week have demonstrated that Ireland still has a very real and dangerous culture of homophobia.

That’s according to Limerick City Labour Party councillor Conor Sheehan, who has warned that homophobia didn’t disappear in the wake of the same-sex marriage referendum.

As an openly gay public representative, Cllr Sheehan said that in the very recent past, he was forced to remove himself from a number of online dating apps because of threats and homophobic abuse he received.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, he said that he had to leave the dating platforms due to threatening messages “with homophobic undertones, which were jarring and unnerving to receive”.

“Would I have received those sort of messages if I was a straight man? Honestly, I don’t think so,” he added.

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“There was a feeling amongst a lot of people that since marriage equality, we had washed all the homophobia out of the country, but that’s not the case.

“First and foremost we need strong hate crime legalisation to be brought forward by the Government. We need stronger action from the top down”.

Mr Sheehan said proper sex education was also needed, which includes discussions about LGTBQ couples, LGTBQ family units and LGTBQ people in general.

The Labour councillor also stressed the need for visibility and representation, in order to show young LGTBQ people that it is okay, and safe, to be themselves.

“There are people growing up that need to know it’s perfectly normal to be gay, or trans, or bi. They need to know they can hold their true identity, and that they don’t have to conceal themselves in any way.

“I am single, but if I was in a relationship, I don’t think I would feel safe, or comfortable, being affectionate in public. That says a lot about where are now, and I am not being dramatic.”

“We see it when people come up to people in public please, have slurs thrown at them, and have been physically attacked. So this is a wake-up call that this is something that we, as a society, are struggling with,” he added.