State apology expected over historic convictions of gay men

Only a day after the UK pardoned thousands of men, the Seanad will debate a Labour bill to exonerate Irish men

State apology expected over historic convictions of gay men

Image: RollingNews.ie

The first steps to exonerate men convicted of consensual same-sex acts, before the law was decriminalised in 1993, will be taken today.

The Government will not oppose the Certain Sexual Offences (Apology and Exoneration) Bill 2016 being debated in the Seanad today. 

The debate comes only a day after the UK posthumously pardoned thousands of men convicted of historic offences.

The Labour bill being put forward calls for the Irish State to exonerate and apologise to gay men convicted under past legislation.

Labour says that more than two decades after decriminalisation, and almost two years after citizens voted to legalise same-sex marriage, it is time those once found guilty receive an apology.

The party's Equality spokesperson, Senator Ged Nash, explained: "Our State inherited from Britain the draconian laws we applied over the decades to persecute and prosecute gay men in particular.  It took until the 1990s for Irish legislators to find the moral courage to do anything about this.

"Nothing we do or say now will ever truly make up for the hurt and marginalisation which official Ireland imposed on gay citizens for decades, and which caused so many people to live with a crushing and enduring fear of being ‘found out’. But in apologising for what we did in the past, and acknowledging that it was wrong, we might ease some of that pain," he added.

He also suggested it is "an important step in terms of reckoning with our past".