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Media centre home > News > Leadership not doing enough to tackle homophobia in NI

Issued:07/02/12

Northern Ireland's sensitive political situation may continue to prevent people in positions of power from being held accountable for their condemnation of homosexuality, a new book claims.

The book suggests not enough is being done by the political leadership to demonstrate that the prejudicial attitudes of the few do not represent the wider population.

In recent years, a number of high-profile Northern Ireland Assembly ministers have publicly made critical comments about homosexuality and not faced prosecution under anti-discrimination legislation.

Most notably in 2008 Iris Robinson, a former Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and MP, made a series of public statements on homosexuality that caused widespread outrage. A year-long police investigation concluded that no action would be taken against her.

Queering Conflict, written by Dr Marian Duggan, lecturer in criminology from Sheffield Hallam University, examines lesbians' and gay men's first-hand experiences of homophobia in Northern Ireland.

Taking as its central point the failure of the British government to extend the 1967 Sexual Offences Act to Northern Ireland, the book demonstrates the differences in governing attitudes towards homosexuality in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

The 1967 Act, which decriminalised certain aspects of homosexuality in England and Wales, was extended to Northern Ireland in 1982 following a European Court victory for applicant Jeffrey Dudgeon, recently awarded an MBE by the Queen in the New Year's honours list. 

The book highlights the negative affects these attitudes have had on the wider lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB&T) community there, and the deep cultural divides still evident in post-Troubles Northern Ireland.

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Dr Duggan said: "If prominent public figures and politicians are allowed to continue to express prejudicial views with impunity, then it both reinforces the marginalised status of lesbians and gay men as not fully integrated citizens and undermines the effectiveness of supposed 'equality' legislation.

"Despite a positive, inclusive vision of a 'new' Northern Ireland there are relatively few openly lesbian or gay political and public figures. Addressing this might be a powerful way of refuting stereotypes that lesbians and gay men are 'outsiders' in the country.

"I hope that by demonstrating the life stories of the lesbians and gay men in my book, cultural understandings of homophobia in Northern Ireland will inform relevant strategies to address this destructive and misguided form of prejudice."

For press information: contact Tess Humphrys on 0114 225 4025 or email pressoffice@shu.ac.uk