Apology for Persons Convicted of Consensual Same-Sex Sexual Acts: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann:

acknowledges that the laws repealed in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 that criminalised consensual sexual activity between men:

— were improperly discriminatory, contrary to human dignity and an infringement of personal privacy and autonomy;

— caused multiple harms to those directly and indirectly affected, namely men who engaged in consensual same-sex activities and their families and friends;

and

— had a significant chilling effect on progress towards equality for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community, acknowledging in particular the legacy of HIV/AIDS within the context of criminalisation;

further acknowledges the hurt and the harm caused to those who were deterred by those laws from being open and honest about their identity with their family and in society and that this prevented citizens from engaging in civil and political life and deprived society of their full contribution;

offers a sincere apology to individuals convicted of same-sex sexual activity which is now legal;

welcomes the positive progressive measures introduced by successive Governments over the last thirty years and in particular in the 25 years since decriminalisation was introduced by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993, including inter alia:

— the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989;

— the Equal Status Acts 2000-2016;

— the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2016;

— the Civil Partnership & Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010;

— the Marriage Equality Referendum and the Marriage Act 2015;

— the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015; and

— the Gender Recognition Act 2015;

further welcomes the Government's commitment to introduce an LGBTI+ Youth Strategy, followed by an LGBTI Strategy; and

reaffirms its commitment to ensuring that:

— the law fully recognises and protects sexual and gender minorities on an open and inclusive basis;

— Ireland is a country where LGBTI individuals are free to fully express their identities without fear of discrimination;

— all citizens can live in freedom and equality, and participate fully in the social, economic and cultural life of the nation, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity; and

— our foreign policy promotes and protects human rights globally, including the rights of LGBTI individuals, who continue to suffer disproportionate levels of violence and face systemic discrimination in many countries.

I am grateful that we all have this opportunity to mark the 25th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland. It can be hard to change laws, and it can be even harder to change hearts and minds, to change what is considered normal, and to change a culture. Twenty-five years ago this week, President Mary Robinson signed into law an historic Act that brought an end to decades of cruelty and injustice. The Fianna Fáil-Labour Party coalition at the time deserves recognition for its courage in driving this change, and a special mention should be made of the then Minister for Justice, Ms Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, who piloted the legislation through this House and the Seanad. I also particularly want to acknowledge the work of Senator Ged Nash in introducing this motion.

Several pieces of legislation were repealed in 1993. Many were historical and stretched back to the 19th century, and even before the Famine. There was some legislation from 1842 and some from 1847, with the main legislation dating from 1861 and 1885. While that legislation was brought through the House of Commons rather than an Irish parliament, Irish Parliaments and Irish Governments defended it nonetheless for decades. They were very much dogmas of a different time and they dictated how we treated and mistreated our fellow citizens, our brothers and sisters. It is oppressive to live in a constant state of humiliation and a constant state of fear. It is also deeply traumatic to feel that one is rejected by one's own country.

As the work of Professor Diarmaid Ferriter has shown, between 1940 and 1978 an average of 13 men a year were jailed for homosexual offences. Between 1962 and 1972, there were 455 convictions. I was born in 1979, and in the three years before that, there were 44 prosecutions in this country. It is not all that long ago, and it is very much in living memory. Homosexuality was seen as a perversion and trials were sometimes a cruel form of entertainment for the media and the public. Others saw it as a mental illness, including the medical profession at the time. For every one conviction, there were a hundred other people who lived under the stigma of prosecution, who feared having their sexual orientation made public and their lives and careers destroyed as a result.

Last summer, I was in San Francisco and I had the opportunity to visit a memorial in City Hall in honour of Harvey Milk. Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to office, and he was assassinated 40 years ago by those who were offended by, and opposed to, everything he stood for. His portrait now stands in the Taoiseach's office. Milk believed that hope was never silent, but too often in this country we were too silent on too many important issues for far too long. It was the voices of a brave few who gave us all hope and then changed things for everyone.

I was just a child when Declan Flynn was murdered in Fairview Park, his only crime being that he was gay. He was brutally attacked by five young men, one a teenager, who shouted: "Hide behind a tree. We are going to bash a queer." He died from asphyxia after been given an horrific beating by those men. When the Oireachtas makes something a crime, people believe that they have a licence to punish those whom they believe are committing it. These were young men who grew up in a society that feared and hated homosexuality. They took the law into their own hands, and all too often, people allowed the law to do its bashing for them.

A year after Declan Flynn's death, there were huge protests in Dublin, organised by a coalition of groups that were horrified at the lenient sentence given to his attackers. From that, a movement was mobilised in Ireland. The same year, we had the first Pride parade in Dublin. People would no longer remain silent. Pride, as we know, is now a festival of diversity, colour and inclusion, but we should not forget that it did not start out that way. Pride festivals in many parts of the world today are still very much protests, with protestors who get attacked.

The date of 22 May 2015 is one that I will never forget. It was the day of the marriage referendum, and the bench where Declan Flynn was killed at Fairview Park was covered with flowers and notes. We think of him today on this anniversary, and of the very different Ireland that we live in now. We also remember those who paved the way for this change. We had many tireless campaigners over the decades such as the people involved with the Irish Gay Rights Movement. We had the inspiring example of our own Senator David Norris, who brought his case for decriminalisation all the way to the Supreme Court 35 years ago and who never allowed defeat to dampen his determination or good humour.

We also owe a debt to Europe. In 1988, the European Court of Human Rights decided in favour of Senator Norris in a landmark case. That created the impetus and provided the momentum for us to change our laws. Some years later, Senator Norris wrote a letter to The Irish Times and said that, for the first time, he felt like he was a full and equal citizen in his own country. We should of course acknowledge, as he does, that he did not take the case on his own. A dozen men who could not be named took the case with him. Some of them are in the Gallery tonight.

So much has changed since then. Three years ago, we helped to transform how this country was seen around the world when we voted so decisively for marriage equality, the first country in the world to do so by popular vote. Last year, I had the privilege of being elected Taoiseach by this House, something that would have been unimaginable to politicians when I was born and perhaps seemed even impossible a few short years ago.

There are many people who helped change minds and change laws, and their contributions should also be remembered, people who fought for me and other gay people long before we fought for ourselves. I think today of people who are no longer with us - champions like Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan, someone whose courage helped to change the laws in this country.

We have a long history of same-sex relationships in this country, and it is something we should be more aware of. Indeed, Aristotle wrote that the Celts openly approved of same-sex relationships, and there are many references to such relationships in Irish mythology. They are even provided for in Brehon law.

It is no secret that a number of patriots who were involved in founding our State, men and women, were also gay. While the State's laws affected gay men in a legal sense, they had a chilling effect on lesbians as well.

Today, the people I want to pay a special tribute to on behalf of the Government are the unknown heroes, the thousands of people whose names we do not know, who were criminalised by our forebears. They are men and women of all ages who tried to live and love and be themselves in a society where their identity was feared and despised and who were aliens in their own country for their entire lives because they felt that love that dare not speak its name. We cannot erase the wrong that was done to them but we can say that we have learned as a society from their suffering. Their stories have helped to change us, as a country, for the better. They have made us more tolerant, understanding and human.

This evening, we mark the anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland and the progress made since then. We have come a long way, we remember those who suffered and also acknowledge that we have much more to do. There is always more to do, whether it is promoting LGBT equality on other parts of this island and around the world, combatting bullying in schools or the workplace or working to improve sexual health. Harvey Milk reminded us of the challenge we face in society to "break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions." He understood why it needed to be done. We do it for ourselves, for others, and most of all, for the young.

It is important that we take time to remember and reflect on key moments in our history, particularly when they mark a decisive move towards recognising the basic rights of citizens. By any measure, the vote 25 years ago to decriminalise homosexuality is a turning point in modern Irish history. It did not end discrimination, and we have not ended discrimination, but it set off a chain of actions which have changed our country unquestionably for the better. The decriminalisation legislation was first and foremost a victory for a generation of exceptional campaigners. They worked with extraordinary passion and no small amount of bravery to say loudly and proudly that Irish society must end the appalling stigma of criminality which gave force to an almost endemic homophobia. The forerunner of what is today the National LGBT Federation was central to this.

As with too many social changes in our country, the spark for change came from a terrible tragedy. The murder of Declan Flynn in Fairview Park in September 1982, as the Taoiseach said, began a movement which suffered many setbacks but ultimately triumphed 11 years later. The decision of the Supreme Court's majority in the case taken by Senator David Norris may well be the worst in that court's history and it is certainly and rightly its most infamous. Even then, a mark of a brighter future could be found in the powerful dissent of Mr. Justice Niall McCarthy. A deeply committed believer in the rights and republican motivation of the Constitution, McCarthy tore apart the idea that imported Victorian morality and legislation should negate the personal rights guaranteed to citizens of this Republic. The subsequent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights put the focus squarely on the Oireachtas to act. After unjustified delays, the programme for Government agreed between the Labour Party and Fianna Fáil in 1992 stated clearly that change would be enacted.

If one looks back at the Dáil debates as well as general commentary, there are important lessons for us and signals for the progress which happened step by step in the following two decades. It is wrong to see Máire Geoghegan-Quinn as simply the line Minister who happened to be in charge of the Bill. She made two major contributions. First, she insisted that the House should see this as a human rights issue and not as some minor cleaning up of an out-of-date statute. It was, she said, essential that we accepted the inherent human rights of homosexual couples. Second, Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, with the backing of the Cabinet, rejected attempts to keep some inequality in the law.

In Britain and other countries, decriminalisation was often done on a piecemeal basis and Governments made gestures to homophobia such as having an unequal age of consent. Importantly, the European Court of Justice left the issue of the age of consent up to national law. A proposal was made on Committee Stage by the Opposition in the Dáil to have an unequal age of consent. The Minister and many others rejected both the proposal and the logic behind it. Some Members of the then Opposition filibustered it out of existence, to be fair, which meant it was never voted on.

By deciding in 1993 to both decriminalise and have equality in this part of the law, a decisive tone was set which has been central to everything which has come since. My party is proud to have enacted, with cross-party support, the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000, which extended equal protections to citizens irrespective of sexual orientation. This legislation was recognised by the United Nations in 2001 as being among the most progressive in the world at the time. The all-party approach, which has been central to progress, continued with the civil partnership legislation and, ultimately, the marriage equality referendum which was carried so overwhelmingly during the previous Dáil. We should all realise how important it has been that we have worked together in the past 25 years to allow voices in the LGBTI community to be heard in our national Parliament and to ensure a wide consensus. In doing this, we have avoided the sort of damaging political debate seen in other countries. The long-term impact of criminalisation of homosexual relations is something we must continue to address. Even for the youngest generation, acknowledging one's sexuality far too often involves taking real risks. We still have a journey to finish in providing the love and support the LGTBI community so badly needs. We have to deliver health services, including mental health services which meet the needs of the community.

We must redouble education efforts to both tackle discrimination and promote active support and understanding. We fully support the all-party motion to pardon all those who were convicted under previous draconian legislation and we also believe that progress should be made on addressing the legislative gaps that still remain for gay couples who have children.

Internationally, the last few years have demonstrated to anyone who wants to pay attention that the steady march of progress which was so casually assumed at the start of the 1990s has not come about. In fact, this is a very dark moment for believers in human rights. Basic freedoms are under threat and there are many countries where homophobia is actively promoted by governments. Russia's active discrimination is being copied by others. Many countries in Africa have an appalling and worsening record. We have a duty not to turn our eyes away. The repression of LGBTI people in these countries cannot be allowed to become a new norm which carries no consequences.

Commemorating progress in our own country is an empty gesture if we do not speak up for those in other countries who are suffering. In two weeks, the streets of Dublin will be filled with a joyous celebration of LGBTI identity. Pride has become one of our capital's most inclusive and important annual events. It is something which would have been barely imaginable in the Dublin of 1982 where a young man lost his life because he gave a small kiss on the cheek to another young man as he left a public house. Declan Flynn and so many others who suffered because of the homophobia enabled by criminalisation must always be remembered. They must serve as a warning to us of what happens when a society takes away basic rights from a minority.

The criminalisation of homosexual activity has had a long and cruel history. The Taoiseach referred to Victorian statutes but it went back further than that. In 1533, Henry VIII first made homosexual activity an offence, punishable by death. It was first made a criminal offence in Ireland during the reign of Charles I and was punishable by death on conviction. It was not until 1828 that the death penalty was removed for homosexual activity.

The Taoiseach referred to the Offences Against The Person Act 1861. Under section 61, a person would not be sentenced to death but would be sent to prison for life. In 1885, an amendment introduced by Henry Labouchère allowed many men to be prosecuted if they were convicted of what is referred to as gross indecency. That legislation resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of our own Oscar Wilde in England in 1895.

I recognise that politicians have played a considerable part in decriminalising homosexual activity. However, individuals who are not Members of the Oireachtas played a significant role and they too must be recognised. One person in particular that we should recognise is Mr. Jeffrey Dudgeon who sought to challenge, before the European courts, the criminalisation of homosexual activity in Northern Ireland. In 1976, he brought a case before the European Court of Human Rights, challenging the criminalisation in the North, and succeeded. It was not just an abstract threat for Mr. Dudgeon. This was a man who had been questioned by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, RUC, for four and a half hours about his sex life. I also acknowledge the role and presence of Senator Norris, who similarly took a case which went as far as the Irish Supreme Court. The decision in that case, as Deputy Micheál Martin stated, is a blemish on the Supreme Court's record. Having read it again, it is unfortunately the case that the Supreme Court failed in its duty to recognise that the enumerated and unenumerated rights of Irish citizens included the right to privacy and sexual privacy. Senator Norris also needs to be commended.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, other members of that Government, and the Oireachtas which voted in favour of the legislation also deserve to be commended, but at this time we must remember the thousands of men and women who could not live their lives openly and who were forced to live a lie by this criminalisation. It is they whom we should remember this evening.

There is no doubt the reforming legislation introduced by Máire Geoghegan-Quinn 25 years ago was a watershed moment for gay people in Ireland who for far too long had been abused, stigmatised and isolated and were not treated as equal members of society. As a republican party, a commitment to fighting discrimination in all forms is a core value for Fianna Fáil. Our wish is to create a republic where everybody is equal and has a right to dignity. We are immensely proud of the road that Máire, with others, forged, at a difficult time, in a very different Ireland, although it was only 25 years ago. While paying tribute to Máire, the irrepressible Senator David Norris, and to Mary McAleese who co-founded the campaign for homosexual reform, I also pay tribute to the Irish mammies, parents, families and friends who got behind the campaign 25 years ago. While gay people were front and centre of the campaign, it was the support of family and friends who helped make it happen. I refer to mothers like Phil Moore who spoke mother to mother to Máire Geoghegan-Quinn because she could see the everyday acts of exclusion which her son endured and which were then part of our social fabric. It is fitting that mammies, daddies and families are remembered in the theme of his year's Pride festival which is "We Are Family".

Tá mé ag roinnt ama leis an Teachta Ó Caoláin agus an Teachta Louise O'Reilly.

Sinn Féin is withdrawing its amendment. Cuirim fáilte roimh an rún tábhachtach agus stairiúil seo. Cuireann sé éagóir mhór i gceart a rinne damáiste dochreidte do dhaoine agus a rinne coirpigh de dhaoine nach raibh faic as an tslí déanta acu. Homosexuality was decriminalised in the State on 24 June 1993. The move to make homosexual acts no longer illegal followed a 16 year long legal battle which began in 1977, when Senator David Norris began a case against Ireland's draconian laws. In 1988, he succeeded in the European Court of Human Rights, ECHR, on this case. I acknowledge the work and campaigning of Senator Norris and also the other men who took the case with him. I also acknowledge Belfast city councillor, Jeffrey Dudgeon, who took an equivalent case in the North, and the Minister of the day who brought forward the legislation, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. That was done in a context where the homophobic murder of Declan Flynn in 1982, a catalyst for Ireland's Pride movement, was in recent memory, and where due to institutional conservatism the State failed to meet the healthcare needs of the LGBTI community. The apology follows progressive moves in Britain and the North to enact what has been dubbed Turing's Law, which pardoned more than 49,000 men convicted under anti-homosexuality laws. It was aptly named after Alan Turing, the mathematician who was criminalised and chemically castrated for being a homosexual man. He committed suicide two years after his conviction.

Decriminalisation was a watershed moment in Irish history and allowed the LGBTI community to be more open and public where previously it was harassed and criminalised by the State. An apology for the overall treatment towards the LGBTI community is most welcome and it vindicates those members of the community who were told that on every moral level of society their identities were something that was wrong and of which they should be ashamed. The apology to them is well deserved, as it is to those who had their lives irreparably damaged and violence visited upon them by individuals and the State. It is more than appropriate that the State should apologise for that and for the fact that it mistreated the LGBTI community historically.

The motion condemns this law to the history books, not as the shame of gay and bisexual men but as the shame of the State. Those same men should have a clean record when asked and should not be obliged to disclose intimate details of their lives so that, in future, gay and bisexual men can live freer of State discrimination. We believe the State should also commit to implementing hate crime legislation and a ban on so-called conversion therapies to protect the LGBTI community into the future. Actions should follow the very genuine sentiment of this apology.

Sinn Féin had tabled an amendment, which we will not press, for the consideration of the Government. We will not ask the House to divide on the issue. We want the Government, however, to give consideration to the matters raised. Lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons were persecuted by the laws also. While indirectly affected, for many others the law sent a message of institutional discrimination that drove the LGBTI community underground, stigmatised its members and facilitated abuse in numerous ways.

The second element of the proposed amendment seeks that the Government would establish a scheme whereby persons convicted under anti-homosexuality laws would be granted a pardon that expunges all convictions of that nature and enables all documentation carrying such a conviction to be corrected. The motion's objective is a State apology towards those so convicted and we very much welcome it. Homosexuality was only decriminalised 25 years ago, however, and there are still many in society who hold conviction records due to those laws. That is the reason we call for exoneration also. Those men deserve a clean slate and history should be corrected.

The State's apology follows a move in Britain whereby men convicted under those laws are in a position to apply for a pardon from the Home Office. The Taoiseach said the State does not have a system of criminal exoneration or pardon and that such an approach might be difficult due to third party involvement in the offence. While I accept that, it is our opinion that such an approach could be introduced on a case-by-case basis. Court records could be investigated and the Government should take such an approach. Those who were convicted deserve vindication from the State harassment they received.

In the spirit of the apology, it should be met with action, and I call on the Government to implement future protections for the LGBTI community. The State is the only western European jurisdiction without hate crime legislation. We also believe there is a need for a ban on conversion therapies.

I am delighted to be able to speak on the anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality. In 1993, the decriminalisation was a fantastic victory for Ireland's LGBTI community and for those progressives and campaigners who fought hard. Ireland has changed since homosexuality was decriminalised in June 1993. In the early years following decriminalisation, however, and until relatively recently, change was slow for those in the LGBTI community. It was not slow because those from the gay and lesbian community and others did not fight, campaign, and agitate for progressive change. It was slow because official Ireland at the time was still a deeply conservative place. Throughout the years the fight for decriminalisation was going on and in the following years, this State remained a cold house for gay and lesbian people, as well as others who did not conform to conservative social codes. It is impossible to quantify how many were affected and how many left the country because of Ireland's draconian laws. That should never be forgotten. On days like today we should remember those people.

There is no point in pretending that some of the prejudices of that time do not linger on, were not passed on, and do not exist in this State currently. It exists in how sex education is taught in some schools. It exists in certain religious organisations which do not recognise same-sex families. It exists in the exclusion of gay men from blood donation and in other areas.

Recently, when Ireland played the USA in an international football friendly, the players wore rainbow-coloured shirt numbers to show support for LGBTI rights. The FAI tweeted about this great initiative and it was welcomed by many, but some of the tweets in response to this fantastic initiative were nothing short of disgraceful and revealed a homophobia which still exists.

Same-sex couples continue to be discriminated against in registering the births of their children while we wait for Parts 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act to be enacted.

It is important and appropriate that the State apologises and also that we move forward and celebrate diversity and inclusion.

Today is another one of those significant days in the modernisation of our country and society. We must never forget the past, of course, but we must also recognise that once we learn from and act on the mistakes of the past, of which this State has made some very dark ones, then in this case particularly, the rainbows that will shine into the future will be brighter for it. The decision of the people to embrace inclusivity and choice in the marriage equality referendum in May 2015 heralded a new dawn for Ireland and all of its people. The most recent referendum has proved beyond doubt that the Irish people are committed to an inclusive and compassionate society. The rainbows of tomorrow will shine much brighter than those which shone in the decades gone past. They can shine for trust, pride, equality and inclusivity. The days of marginalisation, shame and of criminalising our citizens for their sexuality and love are over and consigned to the past.

I congratulate the Taoiseach and his Government on taking this initiative. An apology is very much welcome but a further step needs to be taken. Those homosexual men who were criminalised in the past for engaging in consensual acts should be exonerated. It has been said that there are difficulties with providing exoneration but such difficulties should be overcome. We have to right what were very terrible wrongs. The Taoiseach or a responsible Minister should put on record in the House tonight that every effort will be made to expunge these convictions without delay. I urge the LGBT community in our changing Ireland to continue to play its part in building towards the true republic of equality for which we all long and a new Ireland of which we can all be proud.

We have moved within a generation from a time when gay men and women were an alien and shunned phenomenon to one where sexuality in all its expressions can be fully celebrated. That change has been dramatic but politicians and political parties can claim only part of the credit. Civil society and civil organisations have been the pathfinders on this reform and none more so than Senator David Norris who is in the Chamber this evening. The Labour Party can claim to have been at the forefront of all of the major campaigns for gay rights, but the eventual delivery at political level was on a unified, cross-party basis.

The words "sexual orientation" first appeared on the Statute Book in 1989 in the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act. The then Minister for Justice, Ray Burke, of all people, agreed to a Labour Party amendment, supported by the Worker's Party at the time, to the Government Bill to broaden the definition from racial hatred to include sexual orientation, an amendment that his predecessor, Gerry Collins, stoutly refused to make. We are celebrating today because the Fianna Fáil-Labour Party coalition Government, of which I was very honoured to be a member as Minister for Health, delivered in 1993 on a Labour Party manifesto promise to abolish all criminal offences relating to consensual sex among same-sex couples. It is hard to imagine now how delicately the subject was treated, but I remember those times. It is amazing to consider that the then Minister for Justice, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn brought two options to Government and left it up to her colleagues to choose which of them to adopt, with no statement of ministerial or departmental choice. The second option, almost forgotten now, was that our legislation should legalise same-sex acts but only at 21 or 18, perhaps, rather than the age of heterosexual consent at the time. It required, if I recall correctly, only a very short discussion at Cabinet to agree a principle of a common age of consent. Ultimately, that legislation went through the Dáil with just one voice dissenting, although the Fine Gael front bench under John Bruton was deeply divided on the age of consent issue and remained so afterwards. One or two Deputies here will remember that another battle was fought subsequently when the aforementioned party leader wanted to raise the age of consent generally.

To our credit, that story was very different from the far more protracted and divisive debate that took place in Britain which was not finally resolved until 2001. Of course, we know that male homosexual acts were decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967. What is not so well-known is that in the year following the liberalisation of the law, the police brought more prosecutions under the new Act than had been brought under the previous one. In the UK, the age of consent was set at 21 for homosexual acts, in contrast to 16 for heterosexual acts. In 1994, the year after we changed the law here and equalised the age of consent, Ms Edwina Currie proposed an amendment to British legislation to introduce a common age of consent which was soundly defeated in the House of Commons. The furthest they would go in Westminster was to lower the age of consent from 21 to 18 for homosexual acts. As others have mentioned, a 1997 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights held that a different age of consent was a breach of European law. Nonetheless, two efforts to introduce a common age of consent were vetoed in the House of Lords and a final effort was only passed using override powers under the Parliament Act. Reform finally came to Britain in 2001, so we were ahead of our nearest neighbour on this matter.

Meanwhile, back home, my party's Equal Status Bill had been voted down by the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government in 1992 when it was an Opposition Bill. It was a Labour Party election manifesto commitment that became official Government policy when the Fine Gael-Labour Party Government was formed. I had the honour in 2006 of introducing my party's Civil Unions Bill which I described at the time as providing a basic human right. I recognise that it was only the first step to what we later achieved, namely, full marriage equality through a constitutional amendment rather than through legislative spearheading. That popular endorsement of the concept of full civic equality was the right approach. The sense of urgency demands consistent, insistent pressure, despite every parliamentary setback, and persistence eventually pays off. I reintroduced the Civil Unions Bill when a new Government was formed which was again voted down. Eventually, however, the Civil Partnership Bill became law in 2010 which paved the way for the marriage equality referendum in 2015.

A lot remains to be done. When we are confronted with the shocking figures for young male suicide, I cannot help wondering how many of those lives have been destroyed by overwhelming insecurity and the terror of non-acceptance by family and community of a secret identity and sexual orientation. It is, I believe, a greater proportion than the number of gay men and women among the population as a whole. The ultimate goal must be complete acceptance, inclusion and normality and nothing less - the right to be treated as nothing out of the ordinary.

I want to finish my contribution by quoting from a message my colleagues, Senator Nash and Senator Bacik, received today from Mr. Seamus Dooley of the National Union of Journalists, which reads as follows:

Just a short note of personal thanks to you both for your consistent and unswerving support on the issue of LGBT rights over many years. There is every danger you may be drowned out by voices new to the topic but those of us who have been campaigning for decades are especially grateful to Labour Oireachtas members, past and present. It would be good to mention Declan Flynn today. His killing was a significant turning point and brought the LGBT community out onto the streets. In this regard, there are powerful lines from Pearse Hutchinson's poem, Let's Hope:

One morning last year

From the top deck of a bus

I saw the living sunlight flooding

trees and grass in Fairview Park

with light, life, splendour-

as if no death,

as if no hate,

as if no ignorance ever.

Today is too late for Declan but it is never too late to remember.

The early 1990s was a period in which the gay community, particularly in the USA but increasingly across the world, was being decimated by AIDS.

It was against this background that much of the discussion on decriminalisation took place. Decriminalisation was an important plank in the Labour Party's platform at the 1992 general election. Fianna Fáil, which was led by Albert Reynolds at that time, accepted it as part of the programme for Government that was agreed early in 1993. Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, as Minister for Justice, took the legislation through the Dáil later that year. There were many rumours that elements in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would revolt, but that never happened. We were here until very late in the evening. I note that Senator Norris is here. There were many gay people in the Gallery on that occasion. The feeling of celebration and relief was palpable.

Having complimented Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, I particularly want to mention Mervyn Taylor, who was a Labour Party colleague of mine and of Deputy Howlin in that Government as Minister for Equality and Law Reform. To be frank, reforms were taken out of the Department of Justice to make them feasible. I mean no disrespect to the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, when I say that.

I was not in the Department in the 1990s.

I would like to quote what Mr. Taylor had to say during the Dáil debate:

For those who have genuine difficulties with the principle of the Bill, it is important to recall that what is proposed is the enabling of persons in the gay community to pursue loving relationships. What could be more important, for us as legislators, than to create a climate and a space in which two people who have chosen each other can express and share their love?

I do not think it has ever been put quite as well as that.

Some people suffered dreadfully as a result of what happened with AIDS, but I am happy to say that many of those who were in the Gallery that night were active in the marriage equality referendum and were able to give me a great deal of useful advice when we were drawing up legislation in relation to people who are transgender. When I brought in the Refugee Act, I widened the conditions under which people could seek asylum to include the issues of sexual orientation and gender.

It is right for us to acknowledge what has happened in Ireland. For me, there is a particular celebration when I visit secondary schools in Dublin West, almost all of which have LGTBI groups, and meet young people who are free to express their sexuality as they choose.

I would like to share time with Deputy Paul Murphy.

I want to start by saluting and celebrating the campaigners in the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network for how they took the stand that they took. I note that one of them, Senator Norris, is here. The reality is that such reforms were not won by the great and good of the political elite. The political elite and the establishment often stood in the teeth of opposition to prevent progress for LGBT+ people. They showed apathy, indifference and sometimes derision and hostility in the face of demands for homosexual law reform.

I do not think we are here to celebrate what a great little country Ireland is in which to be gay or transgender. The battle for these rights has not ended and cannot end. According to a report that was written last year, some 56% of LGBT+ teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 say they have self-harmed and 70% of them say they have seriously thought about ending their own lives. The report shows that school continues to be a difficult place for many young LGBT+ people. Just one in five of them believe they belong completely in their schools. Less than half of them feel they have received positive affirmation of their identity in our society. The report also shows that LGBT+ people continue to experience victimisation and harassment in their day-to-day lives. Three quarters of them have been verbally abused and almost one third of them have experienced abuse in the past year. Just one in three of them would feel safe showing affection to a partner in public. Some 15% of them said they would never hold hands in public. One in three LGBT+ people have been threatened with physical violence to their sexual identity, and one in five of them have had hurtful things written about them on social media.

This cannot be a great country for the LGBT+ community, given that sex education in our schools is overwhelmingly based on one ethos and the great liberals of Fine Gael etc. have blocked a Bill that would ensure we get fact-based non-ethos sex education. When young people hear during sex education that it is perfectly normal to be gay and to be attracted to a member of the same sex, we will have gone a long way towards heading off the psychological damage that the current system is doing to young people in our society. As that system is often based on church denomination and domination of our schools, it imbues in young LGBT+ people a sense that they are less than normal.

It cannot be a great little country for people in the LGBT+ community given that we are still dragging our feet on the enactment of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 and, as a consequence, heterosexual and homosexual couples do not have the same rights in relation to their children. I remind the Minister, Deputy Zappone, that it was supposed to be enacted last year. We were meant to have it within a year of the marriage equality referendum being passed. The failure to enact this legislation means that the partners of women like Fiona Armstrong Astley are unable to register as a parent to their children. This means they cannot get a passport for their children without, in effect, denying them joint parentage.

Before we congratulate ourselves on how modern and wonderful we are, we should remember those who cannot afford to get the PrEP drug which prevents AIDS over the Internet, those who cannot access mental health services when they need them, those who are struggling with their sexuality in faith-based schools where being gay, bisexual or transgender is seen as less than normal and those who cannot register the birth of their children to get passports for them as a result of our failure to enact the necessary legislation. While I celebrate and salute those who struggled down through the decades in very difficult circumstances and against the odds, we need to celebrate with a certain note of caution and in anticipation of the further changes that are needed.

We are marking the decriminalisation of homosexuality, which I see as a graphic confirmation of Frederick Douglass's famous aphorism that, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will ... If there is no struggle there is no progress." History demonstrates that decriminalisation was won following a struggle by the LGBTQ community that delivered change, just as similar movements delivered changes like marriage equality and the repeal of the eighth amendment. The decriminalisation struggle was part of an international movement that used various political tactics including mass protest, civil disobedience, deliberate defiance of the law and the distribution of contraceptives and information. The movement in Ireland gathered particular strength and momentum in the aftermath of the horrific murder of Declan Flynn.

While I welcome the Government's apology, which is long overdue, it should go further. Those who were prosecuted under what are now recognised as clearly barbaric laws should be pardoned. We should remember that the lives of countless people were very badly affected by those laws. People were forced to emigrate. People lost jobs. People's lives were destroyed. I suggest that the State, in addition to providing a pardon, needs to undertake to address all of those who were convicted and harmed by the barbaric laws I have mentioned.

It is striking that the LGBTQ community remains at the forefront of the struggle for social progress and equality. One of the most striking features of the exit polls that were released after people had voted on the eighth amendment was that 91% of the LGBTQ community voted in favour of repeal. The oppression faced by that community is not the same as it was before 1993, or even five or ten years ago. Things have improved.

Nonetheless, there is oppression. A heteronormative environment predominates in society, a situation where people's sexuality and gender are often not recognised or respected. It is a scandal that young people - all young people born after 1993 - should still face that situation. I am sure everybody is aware of the horrific statistics that speak to the discrimination and impact on mental health still felt by LGBTQ people, in particular young people. One really stark statistic from BeLonG To is that one in three LGBTQ people aged between 14 and 18 years has attempted to take his or her own life because of bullying, rejection and pressure to hide who he or she is. We need action. A movement drove decriminalisation just like a movement drove marriage equality and repeal of the eight amendment. It drove changes in backward attitudes, challenged prejudice and pushed conservative politicians to move, but we still need movement by the Government.

A lot of it starts with sex education. We need objective sex education that is factually based, LGBTQ+ positive, not distorted by religious ethos. I was disappointed by the Taoiseach's answer this morning on the money message. It is worrying and indicates that the Government may decide to hide behind the idea of a money message and not provide it. I appeal again to the Taoiseach in Pride month not to block this necessary legislation. We need it to deal with the question of ethos and to have objective sex education provided in schools. We also need action on the provision of trans healthcare to allow people to transition to their correct gender without the current medicalised model. We need a model based on the principles of bodily autonomy and self-determination. There is also a need for recognition of non-binary people and effective gender recognition for those under 18 years.

I welcome the statement made yesterday by the Taoiseach, but it does not go far enough. We need action on PrEP and PEP which are extremely effective in stopping the spread of HIV. The Taoiseach has said there is to be a review. I hope we can have it under the HSE in a year's time. However, how many people will be affected during the course of that year? We need action now to roll it out through the HSE.

I raise the case of same sex parents who still cannot be recognised on their children's birth certificates three years after the passage of the Children and Family Relationships Act. They and their children have fewer rights than heterosexual families. Last week the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Katharine Zappone, told me that an announcement was imminent by the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris. We are still waiting. I hope imminent means that we will hear it this week. It is particularly appropriate, given that the theme of Pride is "We are Family". Pride rightly is a celebration. There is much to celebrate and I will be there celebrating. However, it is also a protest which has its roots in the Stonewall riots. Tens of thousands will be out on Saturday week celebrating but also protesting for action on all of these issues and a society without oppression and inequality.

I thank the Taoiseach for giving us the opportunity to contribute to the debate. I also welcome his apology. However, it is important to remember that we were brought down this road reluctantly by the courts. Tá ardmholadh tuillte ag mo chomhghleacaí as Gaillimh Máire Geoghegan Quinn agus ag an Rialtas ag an am a thug isteach an reachtaíocht nua. However, it was the end of a very long and painful process. Very few voices were raised in the Dáil on the rights of gay people. It is important to remember that silence and learn from it. Silence and collusion can be as destructive as deliberate acts. When I think about silence and collusion, I think of the 10,000 people who are homeless, including over 3,500 children. I think of the 120,000 nationally who are waiting on housing lists. I think of those in direct provision accommodation. We seem to be going backwards. There has been an increase in the number who have status, which is to be welcomed, but who cannot get out of direct provision centres. The length of time it takes to process applications has increased from 11 weeks in 2015 to 20 months in 2018. I could go on. There is lack of access to basic records such as birth and death certificates. We collude through silence. This is a day on which to celebrate and remember and to ask ourselves in what are we now colluding.

We need to look at the journeys Senator David Norris took on our behalf to make us a better society and, before him, Jeffrey Dudgeon in Northern Ireland. I also acknowledge and recognise the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Katherine Zappone, who courageously took a case with her partner to the High Court and the Supreme Court. Those cases tell us a lot about Ireland and us. In 1975 Mr. Dudgeon very bravely filed his first complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. He had to go through such a painful process which Senator David Norris also had to go through over a period of 16 years on our behalf. In a hearing in 1979 Mr. Dudgeon's complaint was declared admissible to be heard in the European Court of Human Rights. That hearing was held in 1981 before 19 judges. It was the first successful case before the European Court of Human Rights on the decriminalisation of male homosexuality. It set the legal precedent that ultimately resulted in the Council of Europe requiring that no member state criminalise male or female homosexual behaviour. I am sure Senator David Norris will acknowledge that the Dudgeon case served as a key precedent in the case of Norris v. Ireland which challenged the continued application of the same legislation in this jurisdiction.

What strikes me is that, moving forward from 1975 to 1981, this country and the judges knew that the situation was wrong. They saw the result at the European Court of Human Rights, yet Senator David Norris had to start all over again, almost in parallel with the case taken in Northern Ireland. In 1977 he instituted proceedings in the High Court seeking a declaration that sections 61 and 62 of the Acts of 1861 and 1885 should be repealed. We had a High Court case first. In his judgment in 1980 Mr. Justice McWilliam set out that "one of the effects of criminal sanctions against homosexual acts is to reinforce the misapprehension and general prejudice of the public and increase the anxiety and guilt feelings of homosexuals leading, on occasions, to depression and the serious consequences which can follow from" what he called "that unfortunate disease." He dismissed the case of Senator David Norris who was Mr. Norris at the time on legal grounds. On 22 April 1983 the Supreme Court upheld the High Court's decision. The various judgments have been referred to.

I want to put the date of 22 April 1983 in perspective. It was just a few weeks after the death of Sheila Hodgers and prior to the insertion of the eighth amendment into the Constitution. She had died in March that year because she had been refused medical treatment for cancer because she was pregnant and there was a foetal heartbeat. In April the Supreme Court gave its judgment by majority decision. It talked about the preamble to the Constitution, Christianity and so on. It used the terms "Christianity" and "Christian principles" to back up a most unchristian attitude to the way people were treated. Later that year the eighth amendment was inserted into the Constitution and a few months afterwards there was the death of Ann Lovett at a grotto in Granard. I am only mentioning some of the things that happened around that time.

Senator David Norris had to continue to fight, although there were two beacons of light at the time, namely, the dissenting judgments of Mr. Justice Henchy and Mr. Justice McCarthy who, unfortunately, died prematurely.

Mr. Justice McCarthy stated that the Legislature is not free to encroach unjustifiably upon the fundamental rights of individuals or the family in the name of the common good. Notwithstanding that, Senator Norris had to go forward to the court, to which he applied in October 1983. We should remember that the eighth amendment had just been passed because that gives us an idea of the context and environment in which the case was taken. Senator Norris complained about the contravention of his rights under Article 8. It took until 26 October 1988 - 11 years after the proceedings were instituted in the national courts - for the decision to be made and it was a further five years before the law was changed in 1993. The various cases lasted for 16 years, during which time the country struggled with a black and white view of the foetus and the foetal heartbeat that did not reflect reality.

It is important to remember today the pain and loss of life, including the murder of Declan Flynn in September 1982, a year when so much happened in Irish society. If this Dáil had asked questions and demanded accountability at that time, many lives could have been saved, whether those lost through suicide or otherwise, and much pain and suffering avoided.

If there is something to learn tonight, it is that we need to look at ourselves in this Dáil and what is happening in our name. How many other cases exist? We see the case taken regarding the right to work for people living in direct provision. We see a man who was in the mother and baby home in Tuam state on record that basic records relating to a family member are being refused. As the Taoiseach sits here, and I appreciate he is listening, this is happening in our name. The man to whom I refer has been in the High Court many times seeking basic information.

We need to reflect and take different actions as we move forward. I certainly cannot stand here and watch the mother and baby homes debacle and language being used over and over again to obfuscate, hide and confuse when we know exactly what happened. If we are to learn anything, let us learn to use language honestly and in a straightforward fashion and to empower people to take part in a democracy. We do not need to keep responding to court cases one after the other, as happened with the eighth amendment. With the exception of the Circuit Court, women were brought before or had to go before every single court in the land and then to Europe and a United Nations committee. That is what led to the changes relating to the eighth amendment and changes in the legislation on homosexuality. It was not the Dáil acting in a proactive manner. That is the lesson for us tonight.

I am happy to make a few brief remarks on this motion. I support the idea of a State apology for past wrongs committed in its name. The State has many things to apologise for. Perhaps the Taoiseach is trying to emulate the late Pope, St. John Paul the Great, who in 2000 made an international plea for forgiveness for the wrongs committed in the name of the church. It seems the State is almost 20 years behind the church on this issue. However, we must acknowledge that the State is now taking actions or allowing actions to be taken for which it will also have to apologise at some point in the future. I think of direct provision, the dozens of children who have died in State care in the past decade, the national housing scandal and the many other issues where human dignity is being trampled upon every day.

I acknowledge that this particular apology is being offered on the 25th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, which was a momentous and great event for many people. I have in mind people like Senator David Norris who, although we may not share similar political or cultural views, is a man of integrity in his own right who has done much to remove the stigma that once attached to this issue. It takes guts to stand against the prevailing cultural viewpoint. We must face the past in all its complexity and not be afraid to admit where we may have been wrong. Zeal for the common good may have inspired some to act with a less than generous spirit and that is to be regretted.

All human beings, regardless of their sexuality, deserve respect simply because they are human beings. The dignity of the human person is something we must treasure. I fear, however, that for all our so-called enlightenment, it is something we are rapidly losing sight of. The idea that a generation of adults lived their lives in fear simply because they were gay is a deeply sad human tragedy. Nobody in this House can or should tolerate homophobic opinions. I was accused of those abhorrent views simply because I took a different but sincerely held view on the issue of gay marriage. It was a lazy and ridiculous insult that bore no relation to reality. I said at the time of the referendum campaign that the loving relationships that exist between people of the same sex deserve to be protected. I believe that from the point of view of the couple, such relationships do not differ from those of heterosexual couples either in emotional intensity or the depth of their value. They can and do bear witness to the plurality of human relationships that exist in our society. Thankfully, not only has society destigmatised this love, but it is something that can be celebrated and sealed in the public space since the introduction of civil partnerships several years ago. That was my view then and it is my view now.

While I do not agree with everything in the motion, in the sense that I would like to see more detail about some of the claims it is making, I am happy to support the view that the State should apologise to all those generations of gay men and women it has wounded through its laws.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the anniversary of this very important occasion marking the decriminalisation of homosexuality and I echo the sentiments expressed by previous speakers. It is also important that we give special credit to the tireless work of individuals such as Senator David Norris and former President Mary Robinson and their incredible efforts over many years. Credit is also due to the former Minister for Justice, Ms Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, who introduced the legislation to allow for decriminalisation and an equal age of consent. However, it should be noted that it took five years, from 1988 to 1993, to bring forward legislation to address the European Court of Human Rights ruling against Ireland that led to decriminalisation. Recent events show us again that, in the main, progress on social issues like this often comes in spite of, rather than because of, the efforts of some in this Chamber.

Decriminalisation, marriage equality and discrimination protections are the bare bones of what LGBTQ people needed in terms of ending legal discrimination. If the Government is serious about protecting and empowering this community, it needs to focus on concrete and tangible issues and service provision, which currently falls far short of what is required. Self-congratulatory speeches in the Chamber do nothing for the people in the Baggot Street MSM health clinic located less than 1 km from this building.

This is a facility that is unique in Ireland in the services it provides to men who have sex with men, but it is literally falling down around the ears of staff and patients. The speeches do nothing with regard to the frankly baffling ongoing lack of progress on hate crime legislation, which makes it difficult to track and prevent homophobic and transphobic crime. They do nothing to reassure people who are now being affected by the stalled commencement of sections of the Children and Family Relationships Act, which is causing untold distress and anxiety for LGBTQ people who are raising children. Our contributions do nothing to reassure transgender children that their voices will be heard in the review of the gender recognition legislation or those waiting on lists for endocrinology services. Our speeches will do little for those who are buying PrEP online and hoping it will not be seized by customs, which is particularly reprehensible given the alarming rates of new HIV infections being reported.

I point these things out not to undermine the progress that the LGBTQ community has achieved in Ireland in the past two decades or the work being done by the Government. Rather, I want to remind everyone in this House that we have a responsibility because of our position to rectify the wrongs that were done to this community in the recent past. The legacy of this maltreatment resonates today. Stigma remains and rears its ugly head in many ways. Verbal and physical intimidation of LGBTQ people continues. Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying is rife in our schools. Outmoded sex and relationship education that is of little use to LGBTQ people is still the norm in our schools and must be addressed urgently. Most tragically, the rates of self-harm and suicide in this community remain alarmingly high. The number of transgender individuals who have engaged in self-harm in particular is stark, with one report suggesting that upwards of 80% of members of this community have experienced suicidal ideation.

I raised the issue of the poor placing of Ireland on the 2017 European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association "Rainbow Map” with the then Minister for Justice and Equality in October of last year. It is important to note that of 49 countries, Ireland is placed 15th in terms of the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ persons. It is noteworthy that Malta, a country not dissimilar to Ireland in terms of its history, went from near the bottom to the top of the European chart when the new government there set out to address decades of neglect for LGBTQ people, proving that radical change in the legal and public policy areas and the lived experience can be brought about with political will in a very short timeframe. I hope the Government would reflect on our comparatively poor ranking and recommit itself to making Ireland a world leader for protecting and enhancing the lives of LGBTQ people here at home.

Another thing worth noting is the current programme for Government commitment to develop an LGBTQ strategy for equality. While that is in the programme for Government, it seems there has been very little progress. I understand the Department of Justice and Equality is looking at it but with the change of personnel in recent times, it seems nothing much has happened, and what the Department is doing is very limited. This strategy is going to be critical in determining the future trajectory of LGBTQ equality on a cross-governmental basis. This is what we have to be working towards, not to have this siloed in different Departments. There is a need for a cross-departmental approach to be taken by Government and for one single person to have responsibility for driving that strategy.

There is no doubt we have come a long way since 1993 but we still have a long way to go. More must be done to ensure our LGBTQ family members and friends enjoy full and equal rights as citizens of this State.

Over the past few hours we have had a timely and appropriate discussion in both Houses of the Oireachtas. Many Members have made moving and personal contributions. The fact the Taoiseach was able to speak on this issue in such a personal way is quite a profound reflection of the changes that have taken place in Ireland over the past 25 years.

As Minister for Justice and Equality, it is my responsibility to ensure that Ireland is a country where every person is valued equally and that no one faces discrimination simply as a result of who they are. We now know and recognise the damage that discrimination of any kind can cause. The experiences of gay men before the decriminalisation of homosexuality are a living example of how deeply people's lives can be damaged by discrimination. Many generations of LGBTI people felt victimised and excluded from society as a result of those laws. Today, the Government and the Houses of the Oireachtas are offering an apology for those laws: an apology for the effect those laws had on the lives of gay men; an apology for how those laws made the LGBTI community feel excluded, isolated and undervalued.

As the Taoiseach has said, it is a commitment of this Government to prevent discrimination of any kind. I, with the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, am committed to working with the LGBTI community to ensure their voices are heard and listened to in areas which affect their lives and the lives of their families. In response to Deputy Shortall, I note the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, has begun work on the strategy, which is an important development at this time. In response to Deputy Ó Laoghaire and Deputy Paul Murphy, I have taken careful note of the points raised and the issue surrounding the amendments.

The path to equality has taken some time. Along with the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993, significant milestones in the recognition of the rights of gay people are recorded in the motion, including the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2016, the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2016, the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010, the marriage equality referendum, the Marriage Act 2015, the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 and the Gender Recognition Act 2015. This legislation protects the rights of LGBTI people, recognising their unique needs as members of society.

I know those in the LGBTI community have had to work hard to have their rights recognised and to ensure their rights are protected. There are important lessons to be learned from how discrimination has affected this community in the past, lessons which can inform how we address discrimination in the future. I am committed to ensuring that all people in Ireland feel they are free to live their lives as they choose, regardless of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability or ability. It is now 25 years since the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 was passed. Our society has changed hugely in the meantime. The Ireland of today is a more open society. LGBTI people are free to express their identity without fear of losing their jobs or their families. We are a young State in relative terms. We are still moving forward to achieve the type of progress that is both appropriate and necessary. Ensuring a free and fair society is an ongoing responsibility for the Government and, indeed, for all of us in these Houses. Human rights must be established and protected. As Minister for Justice and Equality, I, alongside the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, and my Government colleagues, pledge to work to ensure that all members of our society feel they are valued and that the legislation in place will protect all against discrimination.

We can and should learn the lessons of the past 25 years as to how a society can advance to become more inclusive and diverse and, most importantly, how it can be a society of which we can all be proud.

That concludes the debate. I thank the Taoiseach and other Members who contributed or joined us for the debate and I hope it was a special evening for those in the Visitors Gallery. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire having withdrawn his amendment, I will proceed to put the question on the motion.

Question put and agreed to.