JUST days after Limerick joined Ireland in voting for marriage equality, local councillors have clashed over motions aimed at ending what one city-based representative described as “discriminatory, homophobic laws”.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail councillors teamed up to vote down a motion seeking a repeal of the ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with other men, plus an end to laws which allow religious-run schools and hospitals to dismiss someone on the basis of their sexuality.
Fine Gael councillor Bill O’Donnell said he felt “boxed into a corner”, and suggested religious freedom would be taken away if the motion was passed.
The item - which would have seen council make a public call to Government - was backed by the Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) and Sinn Fein.
The motion’s author, Cllr Cian Prendiville, AAA, said: “There is still discriminatory, homophobic laws and there are a number of legal barriers for the LGBT community. We saw that society has moved on. The majority of people want a progressive, secular society.”
However, Cllr O’Donnell said: “Basically you want to take away religious freedom from people and I can’t buy that. The world of Islam has gone mad and you are here criticising Catholicism. I don’t know what to do here. It’s a double-edged sword.”
The comments led to an angry exchange, with Cllr Séighin Ó Ceallaigh saying the comprehensive victory for the Yes side “wasn’t just a victory for them, it was a victory for the whole country.”
“If you want to go to church and preach homophobic hate against the community, off you go,” he said.
He added that the Bruff-based councillor and the Fine Gael party have been “iffy” about supporting the motion and asked: “Are you saying it’s okay to be homophobic?”
However, in a bid to restore some calm to the debate, Fine Gael leader, councillor John Sheahan said: “We don’t want homophobia in Ireland and that is really the essence of your motion and we can rework that in the statement. But you don’t thank the Government for moving the referendum which won overwhelmingly last Friday.”
Cllr Prendiville said: “You could start by changing the laws. I am totally in favour of freedom of religion and that is a right. Men who have slept with men should be the same as women who have slept with a man.”
A roll-call vote of councillors was tied at eight apiece.
Deputy Mayor Joe Crowley’s casting vote was academic, as the motion did not achieve an overall majority.