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marriage referendum

'I was devastated. I cried for weeks': Eamonn Coghlan reveals struggle with son's sexuality

The Fine Gael senator and former World Champion runner has given a passionate speech tonight.

Eamonn Coghlan New members of Fine Gael Eamonn Coghlan Photocall Ireland Photocall Ireland

FINE GAEL SENATOR Eamonn Coghlan has delivered a passionate call for a Yes vote in the same-sex marriage referendum and revealed his own struggle with coming to terms with his son’s sexuality.

The former World Champion runner spoke about the difficulties his son Michael faced as a result of being gay in a speech to a Fine Gael LGBT public information meeting tonight.

“When I discovered my son, Michael was gay I was devastated. I cried for weeks. The hopes and dreams I had for my son were shattered. I felt guilty, almost as if I was to blame for him being gay,” Coghlan told the audience in Portlaoise.

I tried to cover up my disappointment. While I hugged him, told him I loved him, I had to come to terms that, it was not about me but, about him and his life ahead.

He said the breakthrough came when some of Michael’s friends, who are also gay, joined a family holiday in Spain.

But Coghlan said that his son was subjected to abuse and, on two occasions, violent physical attacks in Dublin.

Michael 1 The Coghlan family on holiday

“I got to know them and see how happy he was with his mates. Michael is a grown man now but he suffered awful bullying in school. At the time we didn’t know why this was happening but after he came out it became apparent that it was because he was gay.

“He had also suffered from terrible stomach problems as a teen which we could never get diagnosed. It transcribed that this was all anxiety related because of the struggle he had with knowing he was gay and the bullying he was being subjected to.”

The abuse didn’t stop after he came out. He was subject to two particularly violent physical attacks in Dublin on account of his being gay.

Coghlan delivered a powerful endorsement of the referendum in 22 May, saying: “I was lucky enough to marry the woman of my dreams. Who are we as a nation to deny our sons and daughters the basic right of marrying the person they love?”

Michael2 Michael Coghlan Fine Gael Press Office Fine Gael Press Office

He also said:

It is clear to me as a parent of a gay child that the marriage equality Referendum is about voting for real people and their lives. It is not about politics or about voting for a particular party.

It is about equality, removing rejection, removing exclusion, removing the guilt, shame and fear that gay people experience. We have to think of the person, their dignity, their validation, their human freedom to love and to live life to the full.

Michael Coghlan, 27, was not at the meeting tonight and is currently living in California.

The meeting in Portlaoise is part of a series of public information events that Fine Gael LGBT has organised around the country ahead of the referendum.

WATCH: Eamonn Coghlan impersonates a constituent and trends on Twitter – but not in a good way

Read: Lovely Irish couple married for 50 years explain why they support marriage equality

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