Homophobic attacks are taking place at a rate of almost one a day across Northern Ireland, according to latest figures.
And local union officials and political representatives said this type of behaviour and ignorance should have no place in the 21st Century.
And it comes just weeks after Northern Ireland’s Assembly voted in a majority to support legalising same-sex marriage, although it remains the only part of the UK which still does not have the legislation in place.
Last year, in the Newry and Mourne district, there was a total of 21 homophobic attacks recorded – and that’s up five on the previous year.
Damian McShane, Newry Unite in the community equality officer, and Newry Rainbow Committee chairperson, said he was “deeply shocked and saddened” at the increasing frequency of violent attacks on the LGBT community within Newry and Mourne over the past year.
But it’s not just confined to one area, as figures bear out.
Mr McShane said: “Not only was there an increase locally, but also throughout Northern Ireland attacks and incidents increased to a mind-numbing 334. This equates to almost one a day and is an increase of 54 from the previous year.
“This is deeply disturbing, most especially following on from the recent marriage equality referendum in the south and the great victory on marriage equality at Stormont, that was sadly blocked by the DUP.”
Mr McShane refuses to let the figures get him down and prefers to look on the positives of every situation.
He added: “We have to be thankful that members of LGBT community are now reaching out to the relative organisations when such attacks take place. We within the NRC and Unite are here for anyone who faces such mindless, moronic attacks.”
Local Independent councillors and Unite community activists Davy Hyland and Kevin McAteer have backed Mr McShane and the NRC on this issue.
Cllr Davy Hyland stated: “We are almost in the year 2016. There is no room for such mindless, degenerate behaviour in any society. These people need to catch themselves on and learn to live and let live.”
Seconding these sentiments, Cllr McAteer added: “I am shocked we have people living amongst us, who have nothing more constructive to offer, other than abusing a human being over their sexual orientation.
“We as a people have to stand together, regardless of political affiliation, and say enough is enough. We can’t let this continue and, if we do, some unfortunate person could lose their life.”
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