In a move that is widely expected, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has decided to abolish the age of consent in Ireland.
He will introduce legislation to repeal the age at which a person can consent to sexual intercourse and will also remove a law in the UK which prohibits sexual relationships which are not authorised by a court.
He will also introduce a bill to introduce sexual education and counselling for youth in Ireland, which will ensure the youth receive adequate information about consent.
The legislation will apply to any youth under the age 16, regardless of whether they have a sexual orientation.
The announcement follows a series of other changes that have been announced this week.
Irish women will no longer have to provide proof of their age before applying for a marriage license.
A bill will also be introduced to allow same-sex couples to marry.
There will be a new civil partnership legislation which will allow same sex couples to be registered as married couples.
Same-sex marriage will become legal in Northern Ireland after the bill is introduced.
An amendment to the Civil Partnership Act will be introduced allowing couples to adopt children, which is currently legal only in the Republic of Ireland.
In a statement, Minister for Education and Skills, Alan Kelly, said the changes will be welcomed by young people and those who have had difficulties with sexual orientation and identity.
“It is time to stop the fear and stigma that has been holding back the progress of gay and lesbian people in Ireland and the world,” he said.
“Today’s announcement marks a big step forward in advancing our nation’s equality agenda.”
A spokesperson for Mr Varadka said the move would give young people the opportunity to be able to fully share their true identity with the wider society.
More: In the UK, where same- sex marriage is already legal, there will be no age of legal consent for gay sex and the age is set at 16.
However, the age to marry in the US is 18 and in the Netherlands the age for marriage is 18.
‘Not a huge change’ However a spokesperson for the National Organisation for Marriage, which campaigns for same sex marriage, said that a change to the age limit was “not a huge leap forward” for the LGBTI community.
“There is a long history of homophobia and discrimination against LGBTI people in the Irish Republic,” they said.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that the Government has spent over €3 million to lobby against same-Sex marriage.
This has included spending on research and development and in-person meetings with gay and bisexual campaigners.
What’s your reaction to the news that Leo Varador, Taoiseach of Ireland has decided on a step change in the age in which gay and straight couples can have a civil union?
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