Cumann na Daoine

A community based organisation in Youghal, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Disregards for Past Gay Convictions -Final Government Report

Last month the Government published the final report of the Working Group on Disregards for Past Gay Convictions. It’s a very positive, progressive and comprehensive report and has taken on board many of the suggestions the LGBT+ Restorative Justice Campaign has made in their submissions, including recognising the need for a restorative justice approach to past and current legacies of the laws.

Below is the press release sent out by the LGBT Restorative Justice Campaign  welcoming the report and calling on the government to expedite the development of the legislation, based on the 95 recommendations in the report.

Strong welcome for Working Group report on Disregards for Past Gay Convictions.

This evening the Government have published the final report of the Department of Justice’s ‘Working Group to Examine the Disregards for Convictions Relating to Consensual Sexual Activity between Men’.

The LGBT Restorative Justice Campaign welcomes the report and the approach that the Working Group has taken to delivering on Disregards for gay men convicted under anti-gay legislation, which was repealed thirty years ago this month in 1993.

“We welcome the report and the acknowledgement by the Working Group that these convictions were an affront to human dignity and represent a historical injustice” said Brian Sheehan of the LGBT Restorative Justice Campaign.

“It is a comprehensive report that acknowledges the range of laws used to criminalise gay and bisexual men, including the Victorian laws repealed in 1993, other laws that were used disproportionately against gay men, and laws which criminalised gay members of the Defence Forces. These laws were often used to penalise ordinary consensual affection between couples – holding hands, kissing, ordinary displays of affection.

The Working Group follows a progressive approach, recognising the lived experience of being a gay or bisexual man in those decades. It also acknowledges that many more men were arrested, charged and prosecuted without being convicted. For many, this led to forced emigration and loss of family and community ties. The report also calls for a restorative justice approach, with ‘a wider whole of government approach to recognising and addressing stigma, discrimination, violence and marginalisation experienced by LGBTQI+ people in Ireland both historically and in the present day’.

Huge damage was caused to the lives of these men and their wider families and to the development of LGBT+ communities over many decades. The legislation created a climate of fear and stigma for gay men and by extension for all LGBT+ people. We yet know very little about how lesbian and bisexual women were impacted, though we do know of cases where being a lesbian or bisexual woman was used in family law disputes, leading some to lose access to their children. We also know little yet of how the laws were used to police trans people.

Time is running out for those who may apply for a Disregard. We call on the Government to expedite the development of the legislative scheme to give effect to the Working Group recommendations. There is overwhelming cross-party support for Disregards, as seen in a recent Seanad debate.

We would like to offer our thanks to the members of the Working Group, to the Minister and Department of Justice for their inclusive approach to the Disregard Scheme and for creating opportunities for the voices of LGBT+ people and communities to be heard in the public consultation. We acknowledge too the strong support of other politicians for the State Apology of 2018 and for this Disregard Scheme, including Ged Nash TD who first proposed disregards in 2016 legislation” concluded Sheehan.

The LGBT+ Restorative Justice Campaign seeks to commemorate and memorialise those who were directly impacted by the criminalising laws and to build a deeper understanding of the histories and lives of LGBT+ people and communities in Ireland over the century since independence with a restorative justice approach.

You can read the Final Report here: Disregard Gay Convictions_Final Report

See also the Government’s press release marking Pride Month here: