Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Equality Fiona O’Loughlin TD has encouraged the Government to redouble its diplomatic efforts aimed at tackling homophobia around the world.

Deputy O’Loughlin made the comments on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

Deputy O’Loughlin said, “Ireland has made huge progress in tackling sexual discrimination in recent years. The passing of the Same Sex Marriage Referendum in 2015 was a defining moment in our national history and demonstrated that the State cherishes all citizens, irrespective of their sexual identity.

“It’s encouraging that more and more young people feel empowered to embrace their sexual identity. Incidents of sexual discrimination are on the decline, but we need to ensure that this trend continues in the years ahead. In particular, we need to ensure that homophobia and harassment in schools becomes a thing of the past and the Government needs to continue supporting programmes to make this reality.

“Fianna Fáil brought forward the ‘Criminal Justice (Aggravation by Prejudice) Bill’ in 2016 with the aim of strengthening our laws to prevent the occurrence of hate crimes. Ireland is behind the curve on this issue as we do not have any specific hate crime laws. The Government needs to be proactive on this issue and ensure that this Bill progresses through the Oireachtas.

“While Ireland has made great progress in tackling homophobia, the overall situation internationally remains very bad. Same sex relationships are still illegal in 72 countries. 70% of the world population live under laws and regulations that limit freedom of expression around sexual orientation and gender identity. The LGBTI community in countries such as Sudan, Iran and Saudi Arabia face the death penalty should they choose to be open about their sexual identity.

“The Irish Government needs to focus its diplomatic efforts towards tackling homophobia internationally. We have a positive story to tell in terms of detailing how it is possible to move from an intolerant society towards one which cherishes all citizens equally. We can’t simply be idle bystanders when rampant homophobia remains prominent internationally, with it being a matter of life and death in many countries,” concluded Deputy O’Loughlin.