Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

For an Ireland Where Trans and Non-binary People are Equal Safe and Valued

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Both states in Ireland – formally independent in the South, controlled by Britain in the North – have a vile creepy history : child abuse, suppression of women’s rights, reactionary religious control of health and education. This “Carnival of Reaction” has deep strong foundations, built following the reactionary partition of Ireland in 1922. In recent decades, especially in the formally independent part of Ireland, popular rebellion has attacked the reactionary carnival – most notably when a constitutional abortion was repealed in a May 2018 referendum.

In days gone by a “Belt of the Crozier” firmly struck by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid was enough to kill Noël Browne’s 1950 Mother and Child Scheme. These days, after a tsunami of child abuse scandals and clerical criminal convictions, far-right causes such as transphobia are, at the popular level, rightly seen as a thin edge of the wedge. They remind us of dark periods we Irish experienced in the recent past.

A media outlet, the Joe Duffy RTÉ Liveline Show, have a mass audience. It is not directly associated with the religious far-right in Ireland. However, it has started to offer an often uncontested platform to government anti-feminist propaganda, targeting the publicly funded National Women’s Council of Ireland.

The broadcaster is not backing down : “I found it deeply disturbing after my 25 years of presenting here to be told that a debate on Liveline was ‘incredibly irresponsible’ in the context of increasing transphobic and homophobic attacks,” the presenter says, referring to a statement from the Irish Council of Civil Liberties, before adding that the censuring was “insulting” to his programme staff and, indeed, his listeners.” (Source Irish Times, June 17 2022).

A coalition Trans Equality Together led by TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland), BeLonG To and LGBT Ireland was launched last week with the aim of creating an Ireland where trans people are equal, safe and valued. Pictured: (L-R) Tiernan Arnup from AMACH! LGBT Galway, Jayson Pope, an LGBTQ+ youth activist and Matt Kennedy, of BelongTo. Picture: Julien Behal (Source Irish Examiner)

A number of human rights organizations have come together opposing the reactionary anti-trans offensive. In very measured language they state :

On 9th, 10th and 13th June, RTÉ Radio 1′s Liveline show discussed matters of gender identity. Trans Equality Together, and our members, share a common concern about these episodes, and we support Dublin Pride’s decision to terminate its media partnership with RTÉ and its consultation with Trans Equality Together about this decision.

The human rights organizations also state :

By positioning whether trans people have a right to exist, are entitled to basic human dignity, have a right to live free of discrimination and harassment as matters of “debate”, Liveline failed to recognise the vulnerability of the trans community, their needs and contributed instead by stigmatising, misrepresenting and further harming trans people.

All sections of the Irish left, must endorse the statement below. There is no doubt that all significant parts of the Irish left will choose that path.

Trans Equality Together responds to Liveline

Need to recognise vulnerability of trans community

Source : Irish Times, Friday June 17 2022

Sir, – Trans Equality Together was officially launched this week with an aim to create an Ireland where trans and non-binary people are equal, safe and valued. Trans people in Ireland are a tiny minority of the population yet they have been marginalised, denied access to healthcare, and their voices are rarely heard in national discourse.

On 9th, 10th and 13th June, RTÉ Radio 1′s Liveline show discussed matters of gender identity. Trans Equality Together, and our members, share a common concern about these episodes, and we support Dublin Pride’s decision to terminate its media partnership with RTÉ and its consultation with Trans Equality Together about this decision.

These episodes of Liveline provided airtime to what we believe was a co-ordinated group of organisations who actively deny the basic humanity and rights of trans and non-binary people. The repeated use of the same speaking points and language is evidence of such co-ordination in our assessment. RTÉ’s use of the logo of one such anti-trans organisation in its promotion of the programme was, in our view, a serious error.

By positioning whether trans people have a right to exist, are entitled to basic human dignity, have a right to live free of discrimination and harassment as matters of “debate”, Liveline failed to recognise the vulnerability of the trans community, their needs and contributed instead by stigmatising, misrepresenting and further harming trans people.

The problem of violence and discrimination against trans people – which was well acknowledged by presenter Joe Duffy during the programme – is important context for any discussion on the rights of trans people. However, we believe on this occasion these dangers and risks were not adequately taken into account in the framing of the discussions.

In defending freedom of expression, we must also consider that giving airtime to groups that would deny the basic rights of a minority community has the effect of intimidating and silencing those minorities while also contributing to their stigmatisation and isolation in society.

We note and commend RTÉ on its Diversity and Inclusion Strategy which states RTÉ has a “responsibility to represent and reflect the experiences and perspectives of all the people of Ireland”, also stating that “both on and off air, we mirror the nation’s diversity (by gender, Irish/non-Irish ethnicity, different ability and sexual orientation)”.

We are calling on RTÉ to make a renewed commitment to implement its Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, deliver on its commitment to provide diversity and inclusion training to all RTÉ employees; and ensure that, in future, all programmes will strike the correct balance between editorial freedom and the right to free speech while protecting and giving a voice to vulnerable minorities like the trans and non-binary community in Ireland.

– Yours, etc,

Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI),

Belong To,

LGBT Ireland,

Irish Council of Civil Liberties,

National Women’s Council of Ireland,

Dublin Pride,

Intersex Ireland,

Outhouse,

Bi+ Ireland,

ShoutOut,

The Open Doors Initiative,

National LGBT Federation (NXF),

FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres),

Trans Greystones,

Irish Network Against Racism,

Amnesty International Ireland

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