Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher has welcomed the recognition of Cork town, Fermoy’s leadership on the issue of LGBTIQ rights by the European Parliament this week.

Kelleher was commenting as the European Parliament was set to adopt a resolution declaring the entire Union as an LGBTQI Freedom Zone in direct contrast to attempts by certain Polish towns to set up LGBTI Free Zones.

“This is a welcome recognition of the progressive leadership Fermoy gave when faced with choosing to maintain its twinning relationship with the Polish town of Nowa Dęb or stand up for LGBTI rights. Fermoy’s stance forced the Nowa Dęb authorities to back down and rescind its declaration.

“The resolution by the European Parliament will unambiguously declare that there can be zero toleration of discrimination in the Union on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“While the Union’s laws already prohibit discrimination, this is a symbolic rebuke to the Polish authorities, who have declared LGBTI Free Zones in their countries in an effort to scare, harass and stigmatise LGBTI citizens.

“Symbolism matters. I fully expect an overwhelming majority of MEPs to support this declaration. It should give hope to LGBQIQ citizens across the Union, but especially in certain member states where national and local governments are attempting to undermine their basic human rights.

“Union laws are clear. Member States that join the EU commit to upholding them. If they cannot and will not, then they must be sanctioned using the new Rule of Law mechanisms. If they continue to flagrantly breach their responsibilities under EU law, then their access to EU funds, and ultimately their membership of the Union must be on the table.

“Fermoy’s leadership on this issue is a very proud moment for Ireland. It does show that actions even by small communities can have an impact in combatting homophobia and transphobia on the global stage,” concluded Kelleher.