The Taoiseach has said he told Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban that his country’s anti-LGBT law will harm young people.
There were heated exchanges between the Hungarian leader and his European colleagues at last night's European Council meeting, over a discriminatory law that will ban showing content about LGBT issues to children.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the 27 leaders present about a Drogheda teenager’s experiences of homophobia, to highlight that young people are at risk if LGBT people are discriminated against at State level, according to The Irish Times.
“I said very clearly to Viktor Orban that your law will harm young people, will suppress the rights of young people,” Mr Martin told journalists.
Mr Martin said the meeting was “passionate” and a “heartfelt outpouring,” in which the EU leaders made it clear to the Hungarian prime minister that he had crossed a line and there could be implications for Hungary’s receipt of EU funds.
‘It is not a choice’
“Many members made it very clear to the Hungarian prime minister that these laws were offensive to the esprit de corps of the European Union,” Mr Martin said.
“Of all the meetings I’ve attended, it was quite extraordinary. An outpouring of heartfelt views from members across the table. Xavier Bettel in particular, give a wonderful personal, eloquent testimony to his own life story and the impact that laws like this could have.”
Luxembourg’s prime minister Xavier Bettel shared his own struggle with his sexuality with the EU leaders, warning that young people take their own lives due to stigma and discrimination.
“I did not become gay. I am, it is not a choice,” Mr Bettel told Mr Orban, according to sources close to the meeting.
“This is very bad, this is stigmatising... This is really terrible in a European country. I respect you, but this is a red line. It is about basic rights.”
Mr Martin said he told the meeting about the efforts of Drogheda teenager Ruairí Holohan to highlight the issue of homophobic bullying.
“I took the opportunity to share an interview I had last November with Ruairí Holohan from Drogheda in the context of Unicef project in terms of the rights of children,” he said.
“Ruairí took me through his story in the interview, and he was raising the issue of homophobic behaviour in schools, the difficulties for young people, teenagers in particular, as they come out as they want to engage and so forth and the challenges that they face.”
Ruairí was selected by Unicef Ireland for its #KidsTakeOver of the Taoiseach’s office last November.
The Hungarian law bans the portrayal of gay people in content for under-18s as supposed “promotion” of homosexuality, in a law that links being gay or trans with paedophilia and would curtail sex education on the issue in schools.
The European Commission has taken the first step towards legal proceedings against Hungary over the legislation, adding to ongoing infringement procedures due to the erosion of democratic norms in the country, and most EU states including Ireland signed a joint declaration condemning the law.
There are also moves to withhold EU funds from countries that breach the rule of law, as the EU prepares to begin distributing large amounts of Covid-19 stimulus money.