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"All I wanted to do was fit in": Son of Mary McAleese on growing up gay in Ireland

McAleese – who is now a Ryanair executive – is campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote in next month’s same-sex marriage referendum.

Emma McAleese, Chelsea Clinton, and Justin McAleese at Áras an Uachtarain in 2000.
Emma McAleese, Chelsea Clinton, and Justin McAleese at Áras an Uachtarain in 2000.
Image: Gareth Chaney/Photocall Ireland!

Updated 6pm

JUSTIN MCALEESE, SON of the former President, has written a moving article for today’s Irish Independent on his experience growing up gay in Ireland.

McAleese (30), who is a Ryanair executive, came out to his family when he was 21.

He writes that “at 14 I couldn’t tell anyone that I suspected I was gay because society didn’t let me.

When I was 16 a girl, who I didn’t know, asked me directly: “Are you gay?” The panic, the shame, the fear. How did she know? What did I say or wear that made me gay.

McAleese is campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote in next month’s same-sex marriage referendum, as part of the ‘Yes Equality’ group in south Dublin.

In an interview this week, his mother made her first public comments on the upcoming vote. Speaking to Newstalk’s George Hook, she said she and her husband had been watching the debate closely, and believed it was a human rights issue.

“It is a debate about children,” McAleese said.

“People have been saying it’s about children – and we believe it to be about Ireland’s gay children and about their future, and about the kind of future we want for Ireland.

“We want – in the words of the Proclamation – ‘the children of the nation to be cherished equally’… The adult children, the children yet unborn, the gay children yet unborn.

“We want them to be born into a world where if they fall in love with someone they can express that love fully, and that they can live the life that Martin and I have had – we’re coming up to 40 years married now.”

Michael Barron, founding director of BeLonG To, the national organisation for LGBT young people, said:

Justin’s mother, Mary, has been a long-term supporter of BeLonG To, and we are very grateful for the backing she has given our organisation down through the years.
His words are brave and inspiring, and I have no doubt they will provide comfort and hope for young people throughout the country who are feeling isolated because of their sexuality.

Read: Mary McAleese says the same-sex referendum is about children – gay children >

Read: ‘Should we allow mothers to marry their daughters?’ >

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