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'It sends a clear message': Government minister to visit Waterford after Pride flags burned in city

There has been a recent string of anti-LGBTQ+ incidents in the city.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock

MINISTER FOR EQUALITY Roderic O’Gorman is to visit LGBTQ+ groups in Waterford after a number of incidents which local activists have described as “heartbreaking”.

O’Gorman said Irish people want to live in a “compassionate” country and that he is looking forward to raising the Pride flag in the city, following incidents targeting Waterford’s LGBTQ+ community. 

Flags were removed and set alight last week and, when re-flown by the Mayor of Waterford and local activists on council buildings on the city’s Mall, were cut down again.

A man in his 40s has been arrested and charged with a count of criminal damage in relation to the removal of flags. He is due to appear at Waterford District Court on 6 July.

In another incident on Wednesday, posters advocating ‘Straight Pride’ appeared in the city. The poster depicts a man and a woman and carries the caption: “It’s worked for thousands of years, and you can make babies”. 

A number of buildings have begun flying the rainbow colours since the initial removal of flags last week, following calls from Pride of the Déise and local radio stations WLR FM and Beat 102-103.

Speaking on Thursday, O’Gorman confirmed he would visit Waterford, a city he said which had “shown such strong support for the LGBTI+ community”.

“Irish people want to live in a compassionate, progressive, and caring country, where everyone is valued and included. Pride of the Déise exemplify that, and I look forward to raising the Pride flag with them,” he said.

The visit has been welcomed by the group, which had raised the rainbow flag alongside Mayor of Waterford Damien Geoghegan last week.

“We really welcome the minister’s support because it sends a clear message,” member Debbie O’Rourke said.

“It would be foolish to say that there’s no homophobia in Ireland, but it won’t be tolerated and we are moving forward as a country and will see an end to homophobia and transphobia.”

O’Rourke added that there is an increasing concern at the incidents and called for a strong rebuke from community groups in the city.

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“LGBT people exist. We’re not going back, we’re not going to be intimidated,” she said.

“We are concerned because it can get so unpredictable and we would be concerned for people’s safety now. Community leaders across the board, from sports clubs to religious groups, should show their support and be public about it.”

O’Gorman has been invited by Waterford Green Party TD Marc Ó Cathasaigh, who said the opponents of Pride demonstrations are “small and anonymous voices” who don’t speak for Waterford. 

“We have always been an open, inclusive and progressive city,” he said. “The actions of a narrow-minded few only re-emphasise the importance of Pride. I admire and support the work of the Pride of the Déise festival, and I stand with them.”

Comments have been closed as this piece references active legal proceedings.

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Eoghan Dalton

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