By Conor Loughran NUS-USI LGBT Officer
Northern Ireland is in a state of change. The legacy of our recent past has created a want for peace, for prosperity and for an end to violence and discrimination. Yet, it is 2017, and Northern Ireland remains a solitary dot on the map of Western Europe – the only part of the United Kingdom and of the island of Ireland which has still refused to grant same-sex couples their basic human rights. Whilst this means that on a state level, discrimination is active, this message of intolerance and hatred has been utterly refused by the people of this country.
For years the fight has been fought harder and for the years small yet significant steps towards equality have been achieved. However, this was not out of the kindness of our government but as a result of public pressure exerted onto Stormont by thousands of people who took to the streets in protest against the unfair and prejudiced treatment of their family and friends. Now, we stand in solidarity, together in protest as the demand for change is it at its greatest.
The fight for LGBT+ rights is a fight for all humanity. It is about more than who you love, it is about your right TO love. Equality involves everyone – this is a fight for everyone. 54 years ago America witnessed the historic movement for civil rights for black people, a massive protest against discrimination and maltreatment, and now, as society has progressed, so does our fight. When Martin Luther King Jr battled for civil rights, his dream was of a better future. His fight is our fight, as we stand here today still battling for a better future.
Love knows no race, no borders and no gender. Love is not a right we must beg for, it is not something we ask kindly for. It is a right we should already have, for love is at the heart of humanity and it is our most fundamental feeling yet despite being on this earth for as long we have, humanity has yet to grant the most basic right to love to all people. Northern Ireland may seem small and we may seem insignificant, but the world is paying attention to what we do here today. This is the fight for human rights and this is the fight for equality. Whether it be in the streets of Belfast or in the halls of Westminster, we show the world and we show humanity a message, loud and clear, that love is love is love and we will never give up.
The student movement has always been at the forefront of change, we have always been a voice of reason and a voice of liberation. This year I plan to be working closely with my counterparts in England, Wales and Scotland to effectively build a cohesive national campaign with any student, any union and any officer who has a will and a want to fight for those students in Northern Ireland who do not have the same basic human rights as the people who live in the very same country but are only a 45 minute plane ride away. We will work tirelessly on marriage equality, trans* healthcare rights, tackling bi-erasure, pushing our educators to end institutional discrimination and hate crime and support those who are suffering from mental ill health. A quarter of LGBT people in Northern Ireland have attempted suicide, a third have contemplated it, half have self harmed and nearly three quarters suffer or have suffered from depression. We cannot ignore this crisis, I call on students throughout the United Kingdom to stand in solidarity with Northern Ireland and help to fight for a better future for everyone.
My name is Conor Loughran, I am NUS-USI’s LGBT Officer and I stand here fighting. Any queries, any questions, even just messages of support, feel free to contact me on Facebook or send me an email at Conor.Loughran@nistudents.org. We need your help, and we need to fight this together. Thank you.