It was a landmark occasion, marking the first time that a group has been invited in to discuss transgender human rights and equality.
The delegation consisted of members of TENI staff and board, and included TENI Chair Sarah Phillips.
“This was a milestone for the trans community,” said Phillips. “President Higgins was well-versed on our work, and we had a fruitful conversation about our efforts to gain progressive Gender Recognition legislation for Ireland. As a community that has been marginalised and is still denied basic human rights, being welcomed so warmly to Áras an Uachtaráin gave us encouragement and support in our ongoing work.”
Also in the delegation was Dr Lydia Foy, who has been seeking a birth certificate noting her true gender since 1993. Dr Foy won her case six years ago, when the High Court declared Ireland to be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights in not providing Dr Foy with a pathway to be legally recognised in her true gender. “The President gave us a warm reception and was very generous with his time,” said Foy. “He was supportive of our work, and he spoke knowledgeably about the issues we face.”
Noeline Blackwell, Director General of FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres), commented, “It was a great honour for FLAC to be invited to meet the President with our client Lydia Foy and other transgender rights activists. President Higgins was very much aware of Lydia’s 20-year struggle for recognition and of FLAC’s 16-year role as her legal representatives. This visit was an opportunity to remind the President that Ireland is the last country in the EU to legislate for transgender recognition. We are six years on from the High Court ruling that a law was needed in Ireland to allow trans people to have access to a basic, legally recognised birth cert that reflects their gender identity – but we are still awaiting a law. We only hope that when that law comes, it is the most inclusive and up-to-date law possible.”
The meeting began with President Higgins and Mrs Higgins meeting TENI Director Broden Giambrone, who then introduced the rest of the delegation. Formal photos were taken, and then the group enjoyed refreshments and talked informally about the current work being done for transgender rights and future steps. The delegation was then offered a tour of the formal rooms, and discussed various aspects of the State’s history.
Pictured: Sarah Phillips (Chair, TENI), Louise Hannon (Vice-Chair, TENI), Ben Power (TENI), Sabina Higgins, President Higgins, Dr Orlaith O’Sullivan (TENI), Victoria Mullen (TENI), Darrin Matthews (TENI), Vanessa Lacey (TENI), Yvonne Woods (FLAC)
Not pictured: Dr Lydia Foy, Broden Giambrone (TENI)