The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation held its annual LGBT Conference yesterday afternoon in the Gresham Hotel, Dublin. The conference considered the important issues of marriage equality, as well as access to healthcare for LGBT persons.
This LGBT conference, only the second in the history of the INMO, heard from marriage equality campaigners in relation to the inequalities faced by LGBT persons in the workplace, in access to healthcare and in society generally.
One focus of the conference was the campaign for legal equality, the next step in which is the referendum for marriage equality in 2015. The INMO fully supports the campaign for marriage equality, and heard from a range of speakers about the upcoming referendum, how to make marriage equality a reality and how nurses and midwives can contribute to achieving this important goal.
Another important theme of the conference were the health issues affecting LGBT persons, and their experience of accessing healthcare in Ireland. The INMO recognises the right to health as a fundamental human right, and the conference will explore healthcare issues affecting LGBT persons, HIV positive persons, LGBT persons with mental health difficulties, and the responses of the HSE, and Irish health system, in meeting the needs of this part of our population.
The keynote address was delivered by Senator Katherine Zappone, a well-respected social justice campaigner. Her efforts, alongside those of her wife Dr Ann Louise Gilligan, have represented a fundamental, timely, and invaluable contribution to the achievement of full legal equality and marriage equality for LGBT persons.
The conference was also addressed by a wide range of speakers including Dr Gráinne Courtney, Consultant Physician; Lysander Preston, Positive Now; Brian Sheehan, GLEN; June Bulger, HSE; Patricia O’Connell, TENI; Monnine Griffith, Marriage Equality; David Joyce, ICTU and Éilís Ní Chaithnia, NWCI.
The INMO also inaugurated the annual “Norris Award”, which will be awarded to persons or bodies who have made an outstanding contribution to the LGBT community. Senator David Norris presented the award to Senator Katherine Zappone and Dr Ann Louise Gilligan in recognition of their outstanding, crucial, and inspirational contribution to the achievement of full legal equality for LGBT persons.
Speaking ahead of the conference, Edward Mathews, the INMO’s Director of Regulation and Social Policy said:
“While many advances have been made in the achievement of legal equality for LGBT persons there are notable gaps in the law, particularly relating to the equal recognition of LGBT family status. The refusal to recognise marriage equality and to extend the full range of family rights and protections to LGBT persons, and their children, represents a lingering and detrimental prejudice which must be eliminated.
Long since passed should be a time where LGBT persons, and their loving relationships, were regarded as second class in our society. We wish to live in a society which prizes loving and committed relationships, irrespective of the gender of those making up that relationship.
In addition, we must, as a society, recognise and respond to the particular healthcare needs of LGBT persons. Societal inequality, stigma and many other factors create unique circumstances, and it is important that both the healthcare system and the staff within the system are responsive, respectful, and accommodating so that LGBT persons should be able to realise and enjoy their human right to health.”