We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

The Pride parade passes the GPO on Dublin's O'Connell Street in 2019 PA Images

Consultation launched on scheme to disregard historic convictions of gay and bisexual men

The criminalisation of consensual sexual acts between men remained in place until 1993.

A PUBLIC CONSULTATION on a scheme to disregard historic convictions of gay and bisexual men has been launched.

It will provide an opportunity for affected people and organisations to inform the development of the scheme and to provide input on a number of key issues, based on their lived experience, a statement from the Department of Justice said. 

The criminalisation of consensual sexual acts between men came into effect before the foundation of the State, and remained in place until decriminalisation in 1993.

In 2018, the Government announced plans for a scheme to disregard the criminal records for offences, where the sexual acts involved would now be lawful.

In May of this year, the Department of Justice published the Working Group Progress Report, which contained a number of recommendations, including the need for targeted public consultation for affected persons and representative groups.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee has now launched this period of public consultation that will run online for several weeks, closing at 5pm on Friday, 9 December.

These responses will inform the final recommendations of a Working Group who are examining the development of the disregard scheme.

Hundreds of gay men were charged in the 20th century under legislation that no longer exists. Homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland on 24 June 1993.

Convictions for consensual sexual acts were rare in the years leading up to decriminalisation but were common up to and throughout the 1970s.

Research carried out by Professor Diarmaid Ferriter found that between 1940 and 1978 an average of 13 men a year were jailed for homosexual offences. Between 1962 and 1972, there were 455 convictions.

‘Lingering harms of the past’

Launching the scheme today, Minister McEntee said: “We want to ensure that any potential scheme is as effective and accessible as possible so that we can exonerate those impacted by these outdated laws and address some of the lingering harms of the past

“I would encourage any of the affected men, their families, loved ones and the wider LGBTQ+ community to engage with this consultation so that we can be mindful of their unique perspectives as we move forward.”

The consultation survey will examine ways in which the potential scheme could be made more accessible, how to encourage participation in the scheme, and how to minimise potential for re-traumatising applicants.

Following the closure of this period of consultation, the Working Group will prepare a summary report which will give an overview of the submissions received.

Minister McEntee said that the “damage that was caused by these laws continues to impact negatively on too many people’s lives”.

While she acknowledged that “we cannot undo the hurt inflicted on people who were discriminated against for simply being themselves,” she added that “we can contribute to the healing process”.

She added that this consultation is “another important step” in addressing the “individual harm that was done to generations of gay and bisexual men, while also showing that we are willing to re-visit and confront uncomfortable aspects of our past”.

The consultation survey, and further information related to it, can be found here.

A Bill to exonerate gay and bisexual people convicted of crimes received cross-party support when presented to the Oireachtas by Labour Senator Ged Nash in 2016.

Today, he welcomed the developments and encouraged people to engage with the consultation.  

“This process began in 2016 with Labour’s Conviction for Certain Offences (Apology & Exoneration) Bill,” Nash said in a statement.

“The first element was the historic 2018 State apology to LGBT+ citizens and community for the harm caused by Ireland’s laws and the discrimination and injustice visited upon individuals and the LGBT+ community more broadly. 

“The second aspect of Labour’s Bill was to establish an appropriate scheme that would provide for the setting aside of historic convictions carried by some gay and bisexual men and the full exoneration of adult men who were criminalised for who they are and who they love.

“For much of our history, Ireland was a cold and harsh place for the LGBTI+ community and citizens. We have made progress but events earlier this week shows we still have some distance to travel.

“Part of that journey involves coming to terms with our past and having a reckoning with it.” 

With reporting by Órla Ryan 

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel