3 mins


Senator Joe O'Toole
Senator Don Lydon

During the Seanad (Senate) debate of March 4th on AIDS funding, Senator Don Lydon (Fianna Fail) referred to the irresponsible ramblings of "some of our more deviant Senators". In doing so, he cooked up a storm which may weather for some time - in spite of his forced apology later.

Senator Lydon was speaking on the Government's plans to launch a £450,000 pilot education programme in the Eastern Health Board area aimed at IV drug users. The programme was to be funded by proceeds from the National Lottery.

The Senator stressed the importance of aiming the AIDS Programme at "those most at risk, such as drug addicts, promiscuous people and sodomites." Senator Lydon was also of the opinion that the AIDS disease (sic) would not have had the same effect on the population if people's moral standards had not dropped so much.

Surprisingly, no one in the Upper House seemed to take offence at this remark, being more put out by the "deviants" charge.

Later in the week however the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) attacked the Senator. ICCL Chairman, Tom Cooney, said the remarks "appeared to rest on an irrational and deeply objectionable prejudice against gay members of the community." The ICCL took objection to both the "sodomites" and "deviant" Senators' remarks, obviously inferring that that latter namecalling had been aimed at Senator David Norris, among others.

Significantly, Senator David Norris - the only openly gay member in the Seanad, was absent from the debate. He was out of the country on business and it has been difficult to ascertain precisely who the namecalling was aimed at.

Senator Joe O'Toole (Independent) speaking during the resumed debate on March 9th felt the remarks of Senator Lydon had been aimed at him particularly and sought an explanation from his colleague as well as a ruling from the Cathaoirleach (Chair.)

There were heated exchanges during this debate with Senator Maurice Manning, Fine Gael Leader in the House, charging that colleague Lydon’s remarks were not made in a political context. He also maintained the "deviant Senators" remark had caused great offence and should be withdrawn.

The Cathaoirleach, Mrs. Treas Honan, refused to entertain any further discussion on the matter and suggested that injured parties take up the matter with the Oireachtas Committee on Procedures and Privileges.

Well the matter didn't rest there because on the following day in the House Senator Lydon apologised to Senator O'Toole whom he understood had been insulted by his remarks.

When contacted by Gay Community News Senator Lydon reiterated what he had said to his colleagues on March 10th. He insisted that his remarks were meant as "off the cuff comments", referring to "various senators who he felt were 'off the road' or 'deviant' - in the old sense of the word - in their approach to the Government's programme on AIDS."

He had apologised to any member of the House who had taken offence at the word in its more perjorative sense, which suggested abnormality.

Meanwhile the National Gay Federation has written o Senator Lydon upbraiding him for using what it calls "sensationalist language", which, the Federation maintains, "apart from being in very bad taste, only serves to reaffirm in some people's minds the myth that gay people are somehow only sexual beings without any sense of humanity or personality."

"It was irresponsible", the Federation also said, "to categorise gay people generally as 'sodomites' when the gay movement in Ireland had been at the forefront of AIDS prevention and information, a fact acknowledged in the Senate by the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Mr. Terry Leyden.

This article appears in Issue 2

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