Pro-LGBT lawmakers in Ireland are refusing to go quietly into the night about what one calls "rampant homophobia" — and they're turning to the national Senate and European Parliament to make their voices heard.
Both lawmakers were inspired by the recent controversy over comments made by drag performer Rory O'Neill, whose interview with national radio station RTE was censored after the activist called out homophobic members of Ireland's media, according to Ireland's Journal. O'Neal, as his drag persona Panti Bliss, delivered a powerful speech on the stage of Ireland's national theater earlier this week after his radio comments were censored.
But it wasn't just the censure that enraged Paul Murphy, a member of the Socialist Party representing Dublin at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Discussing an EU report that identified homophobia, Murphy said he, like other members of the European Parliament, had been "inundated with emails, claiming that this report represents an attack on the freedom of speech, because it condemns homophobia."
"It's deeply ironic, because in Ireland, at the moment, you have a real attack on the freedom of speech," Murphy continued. "National broadcaster RTE has censored Rory O'Neal for calling out homophobia. Even worse than that, it has paid out 85,000 euros, reportedly, in damages to those accused of homophobia. It's an attack by the right-wing conservative forces in Ireland, acceded to by RTE, designed to censor the base in advance of a likely referendum on marriage equality. We must refuse to be silenced."
Back in Ireland, out independent Senator David Norris delivered an emphatic speech on the floor of the Irish Senate, the upper house of the nation's parliament.
"I sat in this chamber, and I listened to colleagues, on these benches, putting down motions that were effectively apartheid," said Norris of antigay legislation proposed in the chamber since Norris was first elected in 1989. "Had I been a Roman Catholic, a black person, or a Jew, and anything was attempted remotely like that, the person would have been fired out of this house straight away."
Norris — who briefly campaigned for the 2011 Irish presidency — has a long history of standing up for equality, taking aim at Ireland's prohibition on gay sex in 1988, when he took the Ireland to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that the criminalization of private behavior between consenting adults violated the European Convention on Human Rights. The European Court sided with Norris, and the law was subsequently repealed in 1993.
But even today, Ireland is far from an open and tolerant society, Norris argued on the Senate floor.
"This country is rampant with homophobia," Norris shouted. "It's throughout the media, and there are decent people in the media who are terrified to open their mouths."
When the senate president attempted to silence Norris, noting that he had run past his allotted time, Norris had a quip ready:
"The homophobes have had 2,000 years on the stage, and I think we're entitled to a few words now and again."
Watch Norris's speech below, and see Murphy's remarks before the EU Parliament below that. Read the full remarks from both Irish politicians here.