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President McAleese Addresses National Gay Youth Forum

President McAleese Addresses National Gay Youth Forum  

Sunday, 07 September 2008 

BeLonG To Youth Service calls for establishment of more gay youth groups to end isolation for gay young people in Ireland.  

Thursday, 30th October 2008: The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese is today addressing a National lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) youth forum. Organised by BeLonG To, a National LGBT youth organisation, the two-day forum hosted in Galway brings together LGBT youth groups which BeLonG To supports or runs in seven areas of the country. The forum, the first of it’s kind, aims to enable gay young people, many living in rural areas, to see that there are other young people going through the same experiences as them throughout Ireland.   

The forum further allows youth workers and volunteers to share experiences of working with LGBT young people and to receive training from BeLonG To on best practice in setting up and running an LGBT youth group. In addition, local Galway group shOUT will be the first LGBT youth group to receive BeLonG To’s LGBT Youth Group Ireland accreditation, having completed an eighteen-month quality standards process with the national organisation.   

President McAleese commented, “Celebrating and respecting diversity among young people is at the heart of this important forum. Homophobic bullying continues to be a society-wide issue, including in our schools and the link between it and suicide sends a clear message that this trend must be reversed.”  

Michael Barron, Director, BeLonG To and Forum Coordinator commented, “Homophobic bullying coupled with isolation are real problems for gay young people in Ireland who often feel that it is impossible to talk about their sexuality to family, friends or in school. Irish research shows that gay young people are aware of their sexual identity, on average, at 12 years of age and rely heavily on groups such as BeLonG To to support their safe and confident development. Unfortunately though, many parts of Ireland lack such services and as a result Ireland’s gay youth suffer.”  

Mr Barron continued, “The President’s ongoing support sends out an incredibly strong and positive message to LGBT young people. We must foster a culture of acceptance and equality across Ireland where local communities value their LGBT young people as cared-for and vital members. This can start in the school and family environment and local LGBT youth groups play a key role in enabling this to happen. Where they have already been successfully established these groups have not only empowered LGBT young people to overcome any bias they experience, but have provided parents, families and schools with tools to ensure that their LGBT young people are safe, confident and active in shaping their own development.”  

Notes for the Editor 

BeLonG To works with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) young people in Ireland. The organisation provides one-to-one and group support for LGBT young people, aged 14-23 years old, to allow them to safely engage with confidence building, personal development and peer support. It also affords young people a space where they can experience inclusion, acceptance, social justice, fun and safety. As such it is the first and only project of its kind in Ireland.   

BeLonG To also advocates on behalf of LGBT young people nationally and has run campaigns and commissioned research to highlight issues such as homophobic bullying in school, the mental health effects of homophobia and best practice in including LGBT young people in schools and youth services.   

BeLonG To has developed a support network for the LGBT youth groups it supports around the country. These groups are up and running in Dublin, Galway, Dundalk, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford. Galway is the first group to receive full accreditation from BeLonG To.