Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said there was grave concern that recent crimes against gay men represent a “resurgence in homophobia” and believes more gardaí are needed on the streets to protect people at night.
Mr Varadkar said the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland is genuinely concerned about the killings of Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee in Sligo and he hopes this is not the start of the “culture wars” seen recently in the US.
The gay Tánaiste said he believes Gardaí need to do more to protect people on the streets, saying people “don’t feel like they see more Gardaí on the streets” even though the force has the highest staffing level have ever achieved .
“This is really cruel stuff. The people of Sligo are shocked and I know the LGBTQ+ community is really concerned about what this means,” he told Newstalk radio.
“It’s kind of scary. Ireland is above all a welcoming country for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. It’s a safe country for gay people, but I think a lot of us were hoping to see these kinds of attacks behind us.
“I don’t know if it represents a resurgence of homophobia or not. There is concern that – you will remember the incidents of burning the Pride flag last year – there has been a series of assaults and now these killings too.”
The Tánaiste speculated that the recent spate of apparent hate-related attacks could be due to a “backlash in violence” as more people are on the move, but also questioned whether they were the result of “a backlash to our progress” as a country is being made “.
“Maybe it’s because we’re in a different phase of the pandemic and people are more on the move, maybe there’s a ‘backlash’ of violence if you will,” he said.
“Maybe it’s a backlash to the progress we’ve made as a country, we’ve seen that in other countries as well. America progressed along a social-liberal path for many decades, and then there was kind of a backlash and things got nasty again and they got caught up in culture wars. I really hope that’s not the way we’re headed.”
The Tánaiste said he believed the Gardaí needed to do more to protect people outside at night and said he had spoken to Justice Secretary Helen McEntee about the issue.
“There are a number of things we can do. One of them is a more visible and clear Garda presence on our streets, especially in Dublin, but also in our other cities and communities. We have more Gardaí than ever and the Garda budget is bigger than ever, but I don’t think people feel like they see more Gardaí on the streets, especially when they’re busy and in the evenings when it’s public can be order problems,” he said.
“I think that has to be done and I think the Minister of Justice will ask the Garda Commissioner to do the same.
“On the government side, we will strengthen our hate crime laws. We want to strengthen it so that someone who commits a crime…motivated by hate can have a harsher sentence. We need to double down on the things we do in schools and communities to encourage and teach people to better accept diversity and to understand that people have their own path in life.”
Gardaí are investigating whether the murders of Mr Moffitt and Mr Snee have a link to online dating apps, and while Mr Varadkar said anonymity can be dangerous online, he also argued that it could harm some people in the LGBTQ+ community in some serve cases well.
“There is a broader problem in regulating anonymity online. People can use Twitter, dating apps, and various internet features to disguise their identities online. Sometimes people want their anonymity protected for good reason. There are still many gay people who haven’t come out – haven’t told their friends and family, don’t want to – and they don’t want their anonymity stripped away either. These are complex issues,” said Mr Varadkar.
“It’s not always good to strip people of their anonymity, and we have to take a few things into account when we do that. We must be sure that we do not pass a law with good intentions, but contain some unintended negative ones.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/crime/maybe-its-a-backlash-against-progress-weve-made-as-a-country-leo-varadkars-worries-for-resurgence-of-homophobia-41553255.html “Maybe it’s a backlash to the progress we’ve made as a country” – Leo Varadkar’s concern about the resurgence of homophobia