Showing posts with label N.Ireland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label N.Ireland. Show all posts

June 4, 2018

LGBT and Abortion Rights Are Working Together Against Discrimination in Northern Ireland



Abortion rights protestors hold placards during a demonstration calling for abortion to be legalised in Northern Ireland, outside Belfast city hall in Belfast.

 

The LGBT and abortion rights movements in Northern Ireland have vowed to fight in solidarity to win the same rights as people in the rest of the UK and in the Republic of Ireland.

While women's rights campaigners celebrated the Republic overturning its longstanding ban on abortion in a historic referendum last month, their attention has now turned to Northern Ireland, where the practice remains outlawed despite being legal in the rest of the UK.

Similarly, same-sex marriage, which is legal in England, Scotland and Wales, remains prohibited in Northern Ireland.

“Just like abortion rights, marriage equality is another issue that Northern Ireland is behind on and there’s an accumulation of impatience,” Eleanor Crossey Malone from feminist campaign group Rosa told BuzzFeed News at the LGBT rights Love Equality rally in Belfast on Saturday.

“It’s increasingly ludicrous that we find ourselves in a situation where we’re surrounded on all sides by states where you can access abortion or marry someone of the same gender and we’re not willing to wait anymore,” she continued. “Something has to be done now.”

Last week, abortion was legalized south of the border after a landslide vote in a referendum to repeal Ireland’s strict abortion law, mirroring 2015’s referendum which saw same-sex marriage legalized in the country. The Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish sea, is also in the final legislative stages of overturning a ban on abortion. 

Some 5,000 people were estimated to have joined Saturday’s march, and abortion rights and LGBT rights were unmistakably intertwined.

“Our basic right to control our body, our sexuality and our basic right to human freedom are so profoundly lodged in both of those issues,” Ailbhe Smyth, the leader of the campaign to legalize abortion in the Republic of Ireland, told the crowd. 

Activists campaigning for an end to Northern Ireland's ban on same-sex marriage take part in a parade through Belfast city center.

Several people on the march wore badges with abortion rights badges from the south’s referendum campaign with Love Equality T-shirts, or LGBT rights slogans pinned to the black Repeal jumper that is now so closely associated with the abortion rights movement across Ireland.

“I think there’s a huge amount of solidarity between grassroots feminist campaigns and grassroots LGBT campaigns,” said Aoife Kelly, who wore a Love Equality badge on one of the black jumpers.

“It was brilliant to hear almost every speaker draw parallels between the struggle for abortion law reform and the fight for marriage equality,” Danielle Roberts, a campaigner with Northern Ireland’s leading abortion rights group Alliance for Choice said after the event. “The statements of support for abortion law reform made today were so much more than words – there is real solidarity between our movements.” 

John O’Doherty, director of The Rainbow Project, told BuzzFeed News that campaigners for equality in Northern Ireland were not willing to settle for one or the other when it came to abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
 
“We are really seeing a grassroots human rights movement right across the island of Ireland,” he said.

“Northern Ireland can’t stand alone. Rights that exist for UK citizens must exist for all UK citizens. The only way to achieve that is for all of us to stand together.” 

While both issues are devolved in Northern Ireland, the country has been without a government for over a year, and there are loud calls for Westminster to intervene on both issues. Labour MP Conor McGinn recently tabled a ten-minute rule bill in the House of Commons to bring same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland – although it was blocked from moving to its next stage. On Saturday night Labour MP Stella Creasy organized a cross-party letter to prime minister Theresa May urging her to extend abortion rights to Northern Ireland.

Theresa May faces a growing rebellion by several MPs in her own party who support Creasy’s intervention, including chair of the health select committee Sarah Wollaston, while women and equalities minister Penny Mordaunt, alongside Conservatives Justine Greening and Maria Miller, have mounted their own separate call for reform of abortion laws.

An open letter by Alliance for Choice signed by several equality advocates in Northern Ireland, including The Rainbow Trust, also calls on May to legislate for abortion rights from Westminster.

If May were to act on either of those issues, however, she risks losing the support of the DUP, the vehemently anti-abortion Northern Irish party whose support she needs in parliament after losing her party’s majority in last year’s general election.

O’Doherty was one of a chorus of campaigners who was keen to put pressure on Westminster to bypass Northern Ireland’s currently defunct legislature and take responsibility for abortion and same-sex marriage in the country.

“Human rights are not a devolved issue,” he said. “It’s mad that we haven’t had a government for 18 months, it’s unthinkable, but it’s the reality for people in Northern Ireland. Why are we not seeing intervention by the British government?”

Jane Robinson, also from The Rainbow Project, agreed that Westminster should intervene, particularly on rights that are afforded to people in the rest of the UK.

“We don’t have equal marriage rights, we don’t have equal abortion rights and there are so many other things that we don’t have equal access to,” she said. “Just treat Northern Ireland the same way you’re treating England, Scotland, and Wales.”

Almost immediately after the Republic of Ireland’s vote to relax abortion laws was declared in Dublin last week, attention turned to Northern Ireland, with the hashtag #TheNorthIsNext quickly spreading across social media.

In Belfast, the abortion rights movement seems newly galvanized, with a flurry of new activists, young and old, signing up at an Alliance for Choice drop-in session in the city on Saturday morning.

“One of the things we’ve been surprised about is how quickly people turned to look at us,” Emma Gallen, a campaigner with Alliance for Choice told us. “Public support is on our side – the Yes badges have made it up here!”

Among Alliance for Choice’s new recruits were activists who were already involved in the LGBT rights movement in Belfast who had found a common cause in the fight for abortion rights.

Stephen Donnan, who wore a Love Equality T-shirt and a “Repeal” badge said he was recently drawn to the abortion rights movement because he wanted to “stand in solidarity with the women who need this change to happen”.

“I don’t want to live in a country that has equal marriage but not access to free, safe and legal abortive health care, or vice versa,” he told us. “Health care and abortion is an LGBT issue as much as LGBT issues are women’s issues. I think they go hand in hand.”

Donnan also believed Westminster should intervene on both issues. “Theresa May calls herself a feminist – well, this is a litmus test,” he said.


“I’m in no position to tell a woman what being a feminist is or isn’t, but for me, this isn’t a feminist issue, it’s a human rights issue and regardless of parliamentary arithmetic, she needs to stand up and say, no this is what’s going to happen.”

Helen Gomez, an LGBT campaigner who had come along to Alliance for Choice’s recruitment session also believed abortion rights and LGBT rights went hand-in-hand.

“They’re two groups of people who are considered minorities when they’re not, and don’t have legal rights that are essential,” she said.

“Feminists and LGBT rights activists both have to struggle together,” Gomez added.

“Let’s fight it together, let’s win it together.”

Women In Northern Ireland Would Welcome Westminster Intervention On Abortion

Abortion Rights Protesters Appear To Have Taken Abortion Pills In Front Of Police In Northern Ireland

A Former UK Cabinet Minister Said Northern Ireland Should Have An Abortion Referendum, Too

By Laura Silver who is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Laura Silver at laura.silver@buzzfeed.com.
 

April 3, 2018

As An Irish Gay Man My Survival Depended in Leaving The North My Happiness in leaving My Homophobic Family

It is with so much pleasure that I repruce Billy Cowan's post in the Irish Times today at adamfoxie*blog

A man hands out religious tracts to people taking part in the Belfast gay pride parade in August, 2004. Photograph: Brendan Murphy
A man hands out religious tracts to people taking part in the Belfast gay pride parade in August, 2004. Photograph: Brendan Murphy  
In April 1998 when Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern were signing the Good Friday agreement at Castle Buildings, I was just coming to the end of a degree in Creative Writing and Theatre Studies at Liverpool John Moore’s University. As a young, gay, Northern Irish man from a staunchly loyalist background, I had willingly left the armoured vehicles and the red, white and blue pavements behind for a more peaceful life in England.
For me as for lots of other young, Northern Irish people who grew up during the Troubles, getting out was an existential necessity. As a gay man it was even more a matter of life and death. Staying would have meant the subjugation of my sexuality and desire, the negation of my identity.
Growing up in a household ruled by a homophobic, bigoted matriarch who had pictures of the Reverend Ian Paisley mounted on her walls, also meant that my home-life was just as much a warzone as the one outside, and I desperately needed to escape.
From the age of about twelve to seventeen, daily battles with my Ma felt no less as terrifying and bloody as the tit for tat battles taking place in the rest of The Province. I remember clearly the “screaming matches” we used to have during the time of the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) and the Ulster Says No protests. I thought the AIA was a step in the right direction; an opportunity for dialogue with all sides concerned. Ma thought it was one step closer to a united Ireland and the erosion of her Protestant identity.
When I used to challenge her about this Protestant identity, highlighting the fact she never set foot in a church or appeared to have any Christian values, she’d retort that she was a Protestant politically not religiously! You could never win with my mother. 
I was compelled to respond to the political situation 
The effect of this upbringing was to make me quite apolitical; completely apathetic to the situation in the North. I didn’t really care whether Ireland was united or if the six counties remained part of the UK. I didn’t really feel Irish, and I didn’t really feel British. I didn’t care what flag flew above my head except, maybe, the rainbow flag.

The one thing I did care about, though, was peace. I wanted the killings and the pain to stop. So, when the agreement was mooted I was full of hope. Here was a real chance of peace, and I wanted it to work out.
Ma, of course, like the DUP, was against it. The very mention of the word “peace” would cause her to fly into a rage, barking like a rabid dog about us Protestants being sold down the river Lagan and into the South, and how we’d soon be controlled by Rome. She hated the idea of the Republic having any say in the future of Northern Ireland; not even the Nineteenth Amendment that rescinded the Republic’s irredentist claim on Northern Ireland could appease her.

Paramilitarism

The negative responses of the DUP and my mother infuriated me and for the first time in my life I was compelled to respond to the political situation. Making use of my three years study of theatre and creative writing, I decided to write a play. Inspired by Queer Theory and Judith Butler’s idea of “queering” I was going to take the situation in Northern Ireland and turn it into a queer farce.
It was going to be outrageous and provocative; it was going to subvert the usual macho, heterosexual Troubles narrative that always focused on paramilitarism; it was going to be personal, a way to come to terms with my mother and my upbringing; and, most importantly, it was going to end on a hopeful note of reconciliation and peace to reflect the tangible hope that I, and many others, felt in April 1998.


Billy Cowan is senior lecturer in creative writing at Edge Hill University. Photograph: Stuart Rayner
Billy Cowan is senior lecturer in creative writing at Edge Hill University. Photograph: Stuart Rayner 

I set about writing the play. My mother became Peggy Morrow and I was her son, Kyle. When Kyle comes out to Peggy, on the eve of the Good Friday agreement, she demands he leave the house. Instead Kyle barricades himself into his bedroom and goes on hunger strike until she changes her mind and accepts him for what he is.
The divided household and the “war” that ensues was the perfect metaphor for the conflict in the North. Peggy represented Unionism, Kyle Nationalism. Once this central conceit was in place, the play practically wrote itself. By the end of three or four weeks, Smilin’ Through was born: a mad-cap play with song and dance numbers; dream sequences; fellatio; dead terrorists; members of paramilitary organisations called Ulster Against Faggots and the Irish Queer Liberation Army; religious leaders called Reverend McMillan and Cardinal Dainty who come together to persuade Peggy to keep up her stance against Kyle and homosexuality.
I even had a singing Canadian Mountie who appeared to Peggy in fantasy sequences and is the one who helps her see the error of her ways. This character was based on one of my mother’s favourite Hollywood stars from the 30s and 40s, Nelson Eddy. To me, it was the perfect way to represent the former US Senator George Mitchell who was mediating the peace talks at Stormont.

Power-sharing

Ironically, like the road to peace, the road to production of the play was long, and there were many hiccups and milestones on the way. In 2002, three years after it was written, it won the Writing Out award for best new gay play, organised by Finborough Theatre London, and then in 2004 it won Contact Theatre’s Flip the Script slam. I sat at the back of the auditorium and cried as the audience responded 
This led to John McGrath of Contact commissioning the play and finally co-producing it in 2005 with Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Although the play was produced almost seven years after the Good Friday agreement it was still relevant because peace in Northern Ireland at that point remained tenuous; the IRA’s decommissioning of its weapons wasn’t fully achieved until September 2005 and the devolved government at Stormont had been suspended because the unionists lacked the trust needed to enter the power-sharing Executive. My play, with its happy ending where Peggy and Kyle are reunited in a rendition of Smilin’ Through, one of my mother’s favourite songs, offered some much needed positivity.
On the opening night at the Birmingham Rep, I sat at the back of the auditorium and cried as the audience responded with riotous laughter and rapturous applause. I didn’t cry because I felt proud or relieved that it had finally been produced. I cried for Peggy and Kyle, for me and my mother. I cried for all those who had suffered in the years preceding the Good Friday agreement. And I cried for Northern Ireland, its past and its future.
Billy Cowan is senior lecturer in creative writing at Edge Hill University. Smilin’ Through went on to be nominated for best new play at the Manchester Evening News theatre awards 2005. It is published by Playdead Press. 
  • This article form part of #Agreement20, an academic public engagement project organised between the University of Salford and King’s College London, featuring a conference hosted by the Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester and funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on April 6th and 7th 2018.

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August 20, 2017

Theresa May be Asked To Intervene Court in N.Ireland Rules Against Gay Marriage



Gay rights campaigners are urging Theresa May to intervene and introduce equal marriage in Northern Ireland after they lost their legal challenge yesterday.

 Mr Justice O'Hara dismissed two cases challenging Northern Ireland's ban on same sex marriage and said it was up to Stormont, not the courts, to decide social policy.



Rainbow Project director John O'Doherty said that, as the Assembly wasn't functioning, it was now a matter for Westminster. He appealed directly to the Prime Minister to act. Jusdge in Northern Ireland ruled "Same sex marriage is not a right"
Mrs May's government is reliant on DUP support at Westminster, and the Northern Ireland party has repeatedly thwarted efforts to legalise same-sex marriage at Stormont.
"It is the responsibility of Theresa May's government to make the necessary amendments to the marriage legislation to make it applicable in Northern Ireland," said Mr O'Doherty.
"The eyes of LGBT people around the world will now be on Theresa May. 
"She says that she has changed her mind on LGBT equality over her years in Parliament. 
"Now is her chance to prove it."
Mr O'Doherty added that the two couples who took the case would consider an appeal. 
Grainne Teggart of the Love Equality campaign said it was unacceptable that Northern Ireland was the only part of the UK where gay marriage was illegal.
"The majority of people in Northern Ireland want to live in a country where unequal laws are consigned to the history books. 
"It's time politicians reflected the will of the people and urgently legislate for equality," she said.
Sinn Fein MLA Caral Ni Chuilin said gay people had to resort to the courts because equal marriage had been denied by the DUP "in defiance of wider public opinion and a majority in the Assembly".
She added: "The ongoing denial of rights by the DUP, with the support of the British government, which are enjoyed by citizens right across these islands is unacceptable. This is an issue which is at the heart of the current political crisis. 
"The fight for marriage equality will go on."
Ms Ni Chuilin also tweeted it was ironic that her brother's marriage was "recognised in London where he lives but not in Belfast where he was born".
Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw described the High Court's ruling as "bitterly disappointing" and said there was anger and despair in the LGBT community.
"Progress would have been an extremely positive step forward, allowing people of every background to get the respect they deserve, and I would urge all those feeling let down today not to give up hope - equal marriage is still within our reach."
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MLA said Northern Ireland was "the only small corner of these islands where we maintain a hierarchy of love".
He said: "We are increasingly isolated here and across Europe as a place where the commitment and compassion of a same-sex couple is not recognised in our law. 
"This ruling reinforces the fact that a failure of politics is to blame for the inequity and inequality that loving couples here face. 
"Reform of the petition of concern can unlock this and so many other issues. 
"Let those who claim to be democrats put down the weapons of veto and vitriol."
Green Party MLA Clare Bailey said that she was "disappointed but not defeated" after the High Court ruling.
"I respect the decision of the court, but remain determined to play my part as a public representative to deliver marriage equality," she said.
"The Green Party brought the first motion on marriage equality before the Assembly back in 2011. We know that the majority of MLAs are in favour of change.
"We need to restore the devolved institutions and get equal marriage back on the Assembly agenda. 
"This is about real people, their lives and their love."
Northern Ireland Humanists coordinator Boyd Sleator said: "Northern Ireland's ongoing discrimination against same-sex couples brings shame on us all. 
"We hope the judgments are appealed, and that one day soon, our lawmakers will accept that love is love, and will at last bring the law in line with public opinion, which overwhelmingly favours marriage equality."


By Suzanne Breen 
Belfast Telegraph

August 6, 2017

The British Ordered The Rainbow to Fly on Northern Ireland Public Buildings This Weekend








The British government on Friday ordered a rainbow gay rights flag to be flown above its main office in Belfast - Stormont House - to coincide with the largest gay pride festival in Northern Ireland, the only British region where gay marriage is illegal.

Gay marriage has been repeatedly blocked in Northern Ireland by the powerful Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

The DUP is currently backing British Prime Minister Theresa May's government after her Conservative Party lost its majority in the UK general election in June.

The Conservative Party was heavily criticized by opposition parties and the British media for doing a deal with a party as socially conservative as the DUP.

"Flying the flag during this week demonstrates our department's recognition and support of the LGBT+ community in Northern Ireland and across the rest of the UK," a British government spokeswoman said.

The UK government's Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, earlier told the Irish News newspaper that he hoped Northern Ireland's devolved parliament would change its position on gay marriage.

"Whilst policy on equal marriage is entirely a devolved matter for politicians within the Assembly, I voted in support of equal marriage in England and Wales and like the Prime Minister hope this can be extended to Northern Ireland in the future," Brokenshire was quoted as saying.

Leo Varadkar, the Republic of Ireland's first openly gay prime minister, was visiting Northern Ireland on Friday and is due to attend an event connected with the Belfast Pride festival on Saturday morning, though he said he would not attend Saturday's parade.

Reporting by Ian Graham; Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Andrew Bolton
Reuters

June 16, 2015

20,000 in N.Ireland: ‘Gay Marriage a Human Right’ and No Gay Marriage Here(N.Irel.story)



                                                                               
                                                                                 

PREVENTING same-sex couples from marrying is a breach of their human rights, a rally in Belfast heard. 
Around 20,000 people crammed the city centre on Saturday afternoon demanding "marriage equality". 
The march was organized in the wake of the 'Yes' vote in the Republic which is set to legalize marriage for homosexual couples - and leave the north as the only part of Britain and Ireland where gay marriage remains illegal. 
Derry-born actor and singer Bronagh Gallagher sang with Quire - Belfast's LGBT choir - at the city hall event also attended by Snow Patrol front-man Gary Lightbody. 
The main demonstration followed a march from Ulster University on York Street and was organized by Amnesty International, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) and the Rainbow Project. 
Speaking to the crowd, head of Amnesty International in Northern Ireland Patrick Corrigan said it was "the most beautiful march" the city had ever seen. 
He used the platform to say: 
"Marriage equality is a human rights issue. 
"Human rights are very clear on the issue of equality. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: 'all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights'. 
"So it is simply unacceptable for the state to discriminate against people on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 
"Amnesty International believes that states should end discrimination on this basis and instead ensure that all families are equally protected before the law." 
Politicians including the SDLP's Alex Attwood were among the thousands to take part in the march. 
Mr Attwood said the rally "sent a very strong message to legislators". 
"There is now a need for a new approach by the parties in Northern Ireland whereby the rights of the LGBT community are not only recognised but also endorsed in legislative form," he said. 
"To date, government has dragged its heels on the issue of LGBT rights - evidenced by the current blood ban and by the conscience clause bill brought forward by the DUP. 
"The overwhelmingly positive referendum held recently has showed that the tide is changing in relation to equal marriage in Ireland - the north is now clearly off-step with the rest of the UK in that regard." 
The assembly has rejected a proposal calling for the introduction of gay marriage after debating the issue for a fourth time. 
Sinn Féin said equality rights for same-sex couples must be shared by citizens in the north and it will continue to campaign for the reform. 
Other high-profile supporters of the campaign include singer Brian Kennedy and Olympic boxer Paddy Barnes.
Simon Cunningham

August 28, 2014

Rotherham in N.Ireland e n d e m i c of Sexually Abusing Children


                                                                       

Rotherham has been labelled a town of shame in the wake of revelations that 1,400 children were sexually exploited over a 16-year-period, but experts and campaigners argue the same abuse is continuing to happen across the country, and is hidden in other boroughs that refuse to acknowledge the problem.
"When you look at the Rotherham report – nature of the abuse, the failures – you could write the same report about any number of different places," said Dr Helen Beckett, of the International Centre, which researches child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking at the University of Bedfordshire. "What we see time and time again is that young people are not treated as victims, there is a real failure to see the vulnerability of these young people and instead write them off as out of control, problematic teenagers."
There is mounting evidence that the shocking revelations in the Rotherham report could provide a glimpse of the scale of childhood sexual abuse across the country, and not just in one town.
In an extensive report into the nature of child sexual exploitation, the Office of the Children's Commissioner identified 2,409 victims over a 14-month period and estimated that 16,500 children were at risk of a specific type of abuse that can see gangs of abusers grooming children as young as 11 in order to rape, sexually abuse and, in some cases, traffic them among other men and between cities.
"It's endemic," said Ray McMorrow, a health specialist at the National Working Group, a charity set up in Derby in the wake of the first prosecutions into child sexual exploitation. "Rotherham is just one of the places that it's been identified."
McMorrow acknowledged that in Rotherham, as well as other cases such as Derby, Rochdale, Telford and in Oxford, perpetrators have been mainly Asian, but said other cases were emerging with white perpetrators. Analysis of the 2012 report by the deputy children's commissioner said that 33% of child sex abuse by gangs in Britain was committed by Asians, where Asians are 7% of the population, but similarly concluded that it was "irresponsible" to dwell on ethnicity.
But he pointed to Operation Kern in Derby which saw the conviction of white abusers but received no national media coverage. White men were also found guilty in Torbay and a recent case in Peterborough involved men of Czech and Slovak Roma and Kurdish backgrounds.
"If we are only looking at one type of network involving only certain types of men and boys, then we are missing victims," he said.
According to Beckett, one of the leading voices of research into child sexual exploitation, while the crime is not new there is a sense that young people are more vulnerable to the type of grooming that can be carried out online, on social networks and by mobile phones. In Rotherham and other cases that have emerged since 2010, children have been groomed online, or controlled via texts. In some instances, explicit videos and pictures have been used to blackmail victims. "These avenues have given perpetrators more access and increased the risks for victims," she said.
Dr Ella Cockbain, a researcher at University College London (UCL), argues that the nature of the crime – and its victims – has enabled it to spread under the radar.
Barnardo's report into child sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland found that in a sample of children aged between 12 and 17 who were known to social services, one in seven were judged to be at risk of exploitation. The UCL study led by Cockbain which was released yesterday – looking at 9,042 children affected by sexual exploitation and supported by Barnardo's since 2008 – found that 48% of male victims and 28% of female victims who were helped had a criminal record. "While it is true to say this could happen to anybody, victims are more likely to be in the care system, and to have previous convictions," she said. "In some ways they are not obvious victims and that is why there has been a lag in response from the authorities."
A culture of impunity among abusers can also create an environment where abuse is almost casual. "Condom use is very low because they are not expecting to get caught. They use their own phones, take girls to their own houses – there has been this sense that everybody does it and everyone gets away with it.

April 16, 2014

After Attack and Overdose Gay Rights Advocate Left Dying 3 Hrs Before Police Gave help

                                                                       Terence McCartney had taken a combination of alcohol and prescription drugs
                                                                                                                                                         

A coroner has raised serious questions after hearing how the PSNI took three hours to gain entry to a flat where a man had taken an overdose. 

Police told the inquest into the death of Terence McCartney (42) they had no means of getting into the apartment block where he lay dead or dying.

The well-known gay rights campaigner, known as Terry, had taken a combination of prescription drugs and alcohol.

The court heard that an hour before his body was found, Mr McCartney’s sister Caroline Ferry found a Facebook message from him that read: “Thank you for everything. Tell mum I’m sorry.”

He had also been assaulted just hours before he died in a suspected homophobic attack, although his injuries were not major.

Questioned by coroner Jim Kitson, one PSNI officer told the court there was no policy or procedure for keeping contact details for keyholders to apartment blocks in the city, or on how to gain entry to them.

The inquest heard that police had received an emergency call at 6.30am on February 5, 2013 from Mr McCartney's friend, Christine Hegarty.

She was very distressed after a telephone conversation she had just had with him, in which Mr McCartney told her repeatedly: “It's too late, it's over.”

A short time into the call Mr McCartney's speech became very slurred and he started making gurgling noises and could be heard gasping for air.

Ms Hegarty told the court she then used a second phone to call the police while trying to keep her friend talking.

But she said she ended the call to Mr McCartney on the advice of police — without having obtained an exact address for him.

Ms Hegarty explained that although she had previously seen Mr McCartney on a daily basis, he had moved to an apartment in John Street three weeks previously and she was unsure of the exact address.

Police were dispatched to John Street 10 minutes after Ms Hegarty made the call.

Two officers successfully gained entry to one block of apartments there, and were able to establish that Mr McCartney wasn't known there.

But two other officers were unable to gain entry to the second block — Meridian Court apartments — where Mr McCartney was living. A police officer told the court that neither he nor his colleague knew the code for the outer door that would allow them inside. He said that even though they rang the internal buzzers of all 30-plus apartments, no-one answered.

By the time police gained entry to Mr McCartney’s flat at around 9.30am, he was already dead.

The call dispatch officer who was on duty at the time confirmed that there was no policy or procedure within the PSNI in Derry whereby they held contact details for keyholders of apartment blocks, or other details to gain entry.

Mr Kitson voiced his concern about this and said: “If something like this happened in the city tonight does it not concern you that you would not be able to gain entry?”

The officer said it was a matter of concern but added: “There is a large number of apartments in the city so it would be quite a task to actually go around and get codes into all of them.”

Mr Kitson said that this failure to gain entry “was one factor in this case”. He ruled that Mr McCartney had sadly died as a result of choking.

He said this had been brought on by a failure of his gag reflexes due to the effects of the high levels of alcohol and prescription drugs in his system.

“Having heard from Terry's family and friend Christine and from his GP it is clear that Terry was a gentleman who clearly had issues around substance abuse who had previous indulged in self harm and had attempted suicide,” said the coroner.

“I am not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that this was a serious suicide attempt, but was a cry for help.”

Mother weeps as she hears of son’s last hours

Terence McCartney's grieving mother wept as she listened to harrowing evidence about the final few hours of her son's life during his inquest in Londonderry yesterday.

Coroner James Kitson heard from Mr McCartney's friends how he was prone to binge drinking and had in the past taken ‘legal highs' but that he had hoped to go to a detox centre to get help to stop drinking.

His substance abuse was confirmed in a statement from his GP who also provided evidence that Mr McCartney had a history of self-harm and previous suicide attempts.

Margaret McCartney, who is wheelchair bound, was comforted by her family during the difficult and painful evidence about her son.

The court was told how he had been assaulted by a group of men in what is understood to be a homophobic attack on Shipquay Street at around 1.30am on February 5, 2013.

However results of a post-mortem showed that although there were minor cuts and abrasions on Mr McCartney's face consistent with a fall to the ground and a punch to the mouth they would not have contributed to his death a few hours later.

One witness, Gavin Gillespie, told the court that he had been driving around Derry with two friends between 1am and 2am on February 5, 2013 and saw Mr McCartney on Shipquay Street.

Mr Gillespie said they stopped and spent some time with Mr McCartney and shared a bottle of whiskey Mr McCartney had with him.

They left but returned 45 minutes later and saw Mr McCartney still there — but by now there was also a group of around 15 men present.

Mr Gillespie said he got out of the car and his two companions left. Mr McCartney was being verbally abused by some of the crowd, with one man in particular “being mouthy”.

Mr McCartney was described as being polite and had “tried to calm things down”. Mr Gillespie said he left the scene after trying to “stand up” for Mr McCartney when the man who was being abusive to Mr McCartney challenged him.

Mr McCartney's friend Christine Hegarty told the court that when she was talking to him just a few hours later he had said: “You should see the state of my face.” He added: “I am fed up with all of it.”

Ms Hegarty added that she offered to take Mr McCartney to hospital but he repeatedly told her: “It’s done, it's too late.”

BY DONNA DEENEY

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