Monday, November 30, 2009

Fianna Fáil senator in row over 'fairy' slur on gay people

A FIANNA Fáil senator who has expressed annoyance that he can't call gay people "fairies" and who claims women working outside the home are one of the main causes of depression in young people, has defended his views in the wake of strong criticism from members of the gay and lesbian community.

Jim Walsh from Co Wexford made his remarks in an interview with a member of the public he invited to talk to him after she complained about views he had previously expressed on the civil partnership bill. The bill will be discussed in the Dáil this week.

Christina Murphy, a supporter of LGBT Noise, a group campaigning for gay marriage in Ireland, said the senator had numerous "misconceptions" about the gay and lesbian community and "backward opinions about equality". An account of her interview can be read on lgbtnoise.ie.

In her piece, Murphy alleged that the senator, from New Ross, Co Wexford, claimed there were "different reasons why people are gay" and said he had "spoken to psychologists about this".

Speaking to the Sunday Tribune this weekend, Walsh said: "That was in the context of young people having difficulty coming to terms with their sexuality. Many people may be inherently gay while others may be gay because of environmental factors."

Murphy said that "the senator focused on the breakdown of the family con­tributing to problems among young people – most specifically depression.

"He claimed that women working outside the home are a main factor in this… This is 2009 and yet the senator seems to disregard the Women's Rights Movement," she said.

She claimed that Walsh asked her how members of the LGBT community could be expected to be taken seriously when "men walk around half naked during demonstrations".

Walsh said: "We had an amiable conversation and we agreed to disagree. People, regardless of their colour, creed or sexuality, are all citizens of this republic and are entitled to be treated with respect."

Murphy's article quotes Walsh as wondering why he cannot call people fairies.

"If I were to call people fairies I would be called a bigot and all sorts of things, but David Norris says it all the time and nothing is said".

Walsh conceded that "it wasn't appropriate to be calling members of the gay community fairies". That leads to homophobia, he said, "and we have to rule that out".
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