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"A heartfelt heart-breaking story": Huge praise for Ursula Halligan's coming-out op-ed

The broadcaster is encouraging people to vote Yes in the upcoming referendum.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Updated at 2.40pm

POLITICAL EDITOR URSULA Halligan says the marriage referendum has encouraged her to be open about being gay.

Halligan has written about her experience of growing up as a gay woman in Ireland in an opinion piece in The Irish Times today.

The TV3 journalist encourages people to vote Yes, saying: “It will say to gay people that they belong, that it’s safe to surface and live fully human, loving lives.”

In the piece, the journalist writes frankly about her young life. She quotes from a diary she wrote as a 17-year-old in 1977 :

“These past few months must have been the darkest and gloomiest I have ever experienced in my entire life.

There have been times when I have even thought about death, of escaping from this world, of sleeping untouched by no-one forever. I have been so depressed, so sad and so confused.

Halligan says that at that time she felt “it wasn’t right” that she loved a girl.

The broadcaster describes how, “I never thought I’d see the day that a Government Minister would come out as gay and encounter almost nothing but praise for his bravery.” Adding:

I told a friend and the world didn’t end. I told my mother, and the world didn’t end.

She also describes a sense of loss that she hasn’t experienced the same social approval as her brothers and sisters:

For me, there was no first kiss; no engagement party; no wedding. And up until a short time ago no hope of any of these things.

“Now, at the age of 54, in a (hopefully) different Ireland, I wish I had broken out of my prison cell a long time ago. I feel a sense of loss and sadness for precious time spent wasted in fear and isolation.”

Speaking out 

The TV3 journalist only told her family that she was gay in the last few days but said, “If I find the right person, I would love to get married.”

Speaking to The Anton Savage Show on Today FM, Halligan said she didn’t know anyone else that was gay when she was growing up and she “felt like a freak”.

“In my own head, I am the greatest homophobe going. I absorbed all the negativity going around in the 60s and 70s.

Before this Referendum came along, I was resigned to going to my grave with this secret.

She told the show she had “no notion of going public” when the referendum was announced but added, “I saw the posters and you couldn’t help but get angry.”

I have only told my brothers and sisters in the last few days…it was hard to get the words out but I have gotten the most beautiful and warm responses from my family. My mother is four square behind me.

“Looking back I should have been braver. I don’t know why it took me so long…some people are still going through hell. I’m doing this for the 17 year old’s out there.”

Reaction

The journalist is receiving a huge amount of support online. This afternoon, chat show host Graham Norton tweeted his backing for the journalist, saying her story was heartfelt and “heartbreaking”.

Read: GAA star Ger Brennan says Government has hijacked emotions and he’s voting No in marriage ref>

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