Regardless of which way you voted last Friday (or not at all, as you might’ve chosen) credit needs to be given to the last government for how LGBT rights in Ireland have progressed during the five years of the 31st Dáil Éireann.
While the Labour Party has lost many seats, it can’t be denied that many in the party fought hard in support of the Marriage Equality referendum, and regularly made a strong case for LGBT rights and other social issues. It could easily be argued that Labour provided the social aspect of reform and change within Ireland’s latest coalition government, while Fine Gael had been known for other issues such as health and finance. The government and its actions were never perfect over the last five years, but it can’t be denied that social progress has been made in Ireland from an LGBT perspective.
In fact, as so many LGBT rights have been progressed, many LGBT people and allies would have voted for the politicians who supported them for marriage equality and gender recognition; a ‘thank you‘ vote, if you will.
Such tactics don’t only apply to government (or now former government) parties like Fine Gael and Labour, but if LGBT rights have now been achieved in Ireland, then it may be that the pink vote’s power has now been spent. If that is the case, and the LGBT voter blends into the rest of the electorate, where next for social liberalism? Is it now ticked off the political ‘to do’ list?
Personally, I’d argue that there are many other social issues in Ireland which need championing, not least of which are women’s rights, though many of the issues will divide LGBT voters, much like they would divide others among the electorate. Just as not every LGBT voter supported a Labour/Fine Gael government, neither will they support such issues as repealing the Eighth Amendment.
While many Labour candidates had indicated support for public debate on women’s rights, it seemed that it was not enough to keep them in power, and I would fear that such a topic will not be high on a Fine Gael / Fianna Fáil agenda, if such a pairing is to happen. The question must be asked, however; where will the now-equal LGBT citizen stand on other issues of equality in Ireland? Are we going to see a mé féin attitude come through, that now with equality achieved, we turn our backs on others in need?
As I left Dublin to return to my new home in England, I hoped to see a new and hopefully-progressive government come together for the 32nd Dáil, but now I’m not too sure. What I do know is that while many may not have been happy with the last five years of government from Leinster House, we should not be too quick to forget how far we have come for equality and social justice.