Fianna Fáil Senator Averil Power has called on the Tánaiste to make a statement on the growing international unease over new anti-gay laws passed in Russia.
Senator Power said that with Winter Olympics due to take place in Russia next year, the Government must make a clear statement on the matter and use its diplomatic influence to consider having the Games moved.
“There is now huge international concern over the recent laws passed by Russia outlawing so-called ‘homophobic propaganda’, particularly with the Winter Olympics due to take place in Sochi next February. It has led to a climate of fear in the gay community, where people may be arrested just for being openly gay,” Senator Power said.
“The Olympics and Winter Olympics are not just great sporting occasions they are symbols of inclusiveness that propel a country into the spotlight. The recent torture and murder of a young man in a homophobic attack in southern Russian and reports of other violent beatings of young people are extremely disturbing. Given the serious concern that the basic safety of athletes cannot be guaranteed the Games should be moved elsewhere.
“The last Winter games were held in Canada in 2010 and I believe diplomatic efforts should be looked at to having the games moved back there. Canada has described the new Russian laws as ‘mean-spirited’, ‘hateful’, and ‘an incitement to intolerance’.
“The International Olympic Committee has a duty of care towards its athletes, it should not be left up to gay athletes to decide if they will take a risk and travel to Russia. The IOC, member countries and sporting organisations, needs to show leadership on this issue.
“We are not calling for a boycott of the Winter Olympics, which I believe would actually just harm the games and the athletes themselves. But a co-ordinated diplomatic effort can result in real change ahead of February and cause considerable embarrassment for the Russian government. It’s important that we distinguish between the actions of the Russian government, the Russian people and the LGBT community there.
“The eyes of the world need to focus on Russia at the moment. There is a small window of opportunity here to draw attention to laws that blatantly discriminate against gay people and cause major issues in society.
“I am calling on the Tánaiste to outline the government’s position on this and outline if he has been in contact with the Russian ambassador to Ireland and our ambassador in Moscow to voice serious concerns.”