An Evening with Mary McAleese on LGBT Equality

Published: 13 February 2019

Professor Mary McAleese spoke passionately and eloquently about her support and contribution to forging LGBT equality in Ireland at a UofG LGBT History Month event.

Professor Mary McAleese today joins the University of Glasgow as a Professor of Children, Law and Religion Photo Credit Martin Shields

Professor Mary McAleese spoke passionately and eloquently about her support and contribution to forging LGBT equality in Ireland at a LGBT History Month in Glasgow.

In 2015, Ireland put same-sex marriage to a public vote, which saw 62% vote in favour of legalising it. Before that, civil partnerships were legal.

Professor McAleese’s son Justin was a prominent campaigner in this pivotal referendum, when he discussed his experience growing up as a gay man.

Speaking to a packed audience at the University of Glasgow, Professor McAleese, who was President of Ireland from 1997 to 2011, described marriage equality as a “human rights issue”.

She said during the referendum people telling their story openly and honestly was “powerful and very important” in changing hearts and minds.

Professor McAleese said her son was fortunate to be brought up in a family where he never heard anyone speak in a derogatory way about the LGBT community.

But she said others haven’t been so lucky and that the Irish referendum allowed the LGBT community to see how much support there was for them and their rights.

Professor McAleese said the positive outcome for marriage equality in Ireland proved that “minds can be changed” and that it was important “whenever you can, make your voice heard”.

But she warned that LGBTI community to be vigilant and to “take nothing for granted” with their hard won rights on equality, adding “just because it’s in the bank, don’t think that the bank can’t be robbed”.

The free University event, which sold out within an hour of tickets going on sale, was held for February’s LGBT History Month - a month-long annual observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, and the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements.

“Ireland’s Journey Towards LGBT Equality – An Evening with Mary McAleese”, is one of a series events organised for February by the Equality and Diversity Unit, the Students' Representative Council, LGBT+ Network and GULGBTQ+ Student Society. More events can be found at

The event was hosted by Professor Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh, Gender and Sexual Diversity Champion, Vice Principal and Head of the College of Arts, and Professor Dee Heddon, James Arnott Chair in Drama.

Everyone who attended on the night was given a University of Glasgow rainbow pin badge create in support of LGBT equality. The badges are available from the University Gift Shop.

Mary McAleese is Professor of Children, Law and Religion in the College of Arts and the College of Social Sciences.

First published: 13 February 2019

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