Michael D Higgins expresses his support and condolences following "appalling recent events" in Ireland
“So many of all our thoughts over recent days have been with our LGBTQI+ community and it is greatly heartening to see the outpouring of solidarity with them."
President Michael D Higgins has expressed his "deepest support and condolences" to all those impacted by a number of "appalling recent events" in Ireland.
The President issued a statement on Saturday (16 April) as vigils have been taking place around the country in recent days in memory of Aidan Moffitt, 41, and Michael Snee, 58, two men who were found dead in their homes in Sligo earlier in the week.
A 22-year-old man has since been charged with their murders.
In a separate incident, 23-year-old Evan Somers was left injured after a homophobic attack in Dublin last weekend.
“So many of all our thoughts over recent days have been with our LGBTQI+ community and it is greatly heartening to see the outpouring of solidarity with them," the President's statement reads.
"I know this will have provided comfort to many people in what is a time of great distress, and I would like to express my deepest support and condolences to all those who have been directly impacted by a number of appalling recent events."
President Higgins said it was important to take the opportunity to "reflect more deeply on the public space which we are creating as a society and the freedom and safety within it."
He urged the public to ask - when it comes to behaviour, freedom and the expression of affection - if the public space is an equal one for members of the LGBTQI+ community.
People attending a vigil outside Leinster House in memory of Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee - Image via Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie
"Seven years ago next month, we will recall how the public voted in overwhelming numbers to extend full and equal marriage rights to members of the LGBTQI+ community," the President said.
"This was an important and significant milestone and was a clear statement by the people of Ireland that all are entitled to equal legal recognition of their relationships, no matter what their sexual orientation is.
"Yet seven years later, when it comes to behaviour, we still hear far too regularly of members of the gay community being faced with homophobic comments and slurs, often unchallenged.
"Heartbreakingly, we hear friends or family members telling us that they do not feel comfortable holding the hand of their partner, of their husband or their wife, in public."
The President said that this "suggests an environment which somehow allows that while under the law someone’s sexuality will be tolerated, its expression must not be allowed," before calling on the public to "do better".
"Beyond the recent horrific events lies perhaps a challenge to address the lethargy which is impeding the fullest expression of themselves as citizens by members of the LGBTQI+ community in Irish society," he added.
"As we go forward, it is surely necessary to address the roots of the assumptions that are sustaining these exclusions and such authoritarian actions in our communities and to consider what individual and collective actions we can take to provide a freer, diverse and inclusive space in our communities built on respect for equality and difference, not just in our laws but in our words and actions.
"In doing so, we will all benefit from the delivery of such full participation of our shared lives by all our citizens.”