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Sunday 1 October 2023 Dublin: 17°C
Alamy Stock Photo The motion acknowledges the efforts from local communities to celebrate inclusion and the 40th anniversary the Dublin pride parade.
Seanad motion for government to 'keep their word' and disregard criminal records of gay men
Minister Harris said he expects to receive a final report from the working group as early in the second quarter of this year.

SINN FÉIN SENATOR Fintan Warfield has called on the government to uphold their commitment to expunge criminal records of gay and bisexual men who were convicted of historical offences.

The promises, which are a part of the current programme for government, include the introduction of a scheme which will allow gay men to clear their criminal record of any offence connected to the historic laws which made homosexuality illegal.

Senator Warfield said on Twitter: “Today in the Seanad, Sinn Féin are calling on government to keep their word; to disregard the criminal records of gay and bi men who were convicted of historical offences, prior to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1993.”

In a motion from Sinn Féin, coming before the Seanad today, it calls on the government to provide a “clear timeline” of when the scheme is set to be put in place.

Senator Warfield added that “time is of the essence” now the country is 30 years on from the introduction of the Sexual Offences Act in 1993, which decriminalised male homosexuality.

The Department of Justice has introduced a working group to examine the the disregard of the convictions and published a progress report just over one year ago which discussed the deliberations of the group around existing schemes.

The report detailed that the working group was considering at the time whether the scheme would require additional legislative responses.

Minister Harris said in March that he expects to receive a final report and recommendations from the working group as early as possible in the second quarter of this year.

Pádraig Rice from LGBT Ireland, a national organisation for the equality and inclusion of the LGBTQ community, told The Journal: “We would like to see progress on the disregard scheme as soon as possible, this can’t be left drag on. Many of the people directly affected are older.”

Minister for Justice Simon Harris said the “victorian-era laws” caused “immeasurable harm to generations of gay and bisexual men”. 

Minister Harris said: “One hundred and forty-eight submissions from individuals, LGBTQI+ representative organisations, other non-governmental organisations, trade unions and political parties and representatives were received.”

“Their responses will inform the final recommendations of the Working Group,” he added.

LGBT Ireland said for the disregard scheme to be successful, it must be “placed in a broader context and must consider and address the full impact criminalisation has had on LGBTQI+ people, communities, and wider society”.

Rice said the scheme should address a wide set of issues that the community still face today.

“These include banning conversion practices, introducing robust hate crime prevention, and improving sexual and mental health services for LGBTQI+ people,” Rice added.

Minister Harris said in March that he was conscious of the damage caused by the laws and said “work has been ongoing to progress all of the news steps in the report”.

Sinn Féin’s motion acknowledges the efforts from local communities to celebrate inclusion and the 40th anniversaries of both the Dublin pride parade and the Liberty Hall to Fairview Park march.

The Sinn Féin motion also acknowledges the efforts of the government so far such as the introduction of the previously mentioned act and the apology from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, on behalf of the state, to the LGBTQ community in 2018.

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