The President of Ireland has spoken at a forum for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans young people. Mary McAleese said that homophobic bullying must be tackled.

“Celebrating and respecting diversity among young people is at the heart of this important forum,” she said, according to the Irish Times.

“Homophobic bullying continues to be a society-wide issue, including in our schools and the link between it and suicide sends a clear message that this trend must be reversed.

“By working together, by standing up for the democratic values that we share, by refusing to go along with loudly-voiced prejudices, we can overcome the bias and hostility experienced by many young gay people throughout the country.

“No-one should have to suffer on account of their sexual orientation.”

Earlier this year the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland’s other main teaching union, yesterday, produced a new information resource on homophobic bullying, in conjunction with the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network.

President McAleese, who is the first head of state from Northern Ireland, was a founder member of the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform and its legal adviser until 1979.

A former barrister and law lecturer, she was elected for a second seven year term unopposed in 2004.

Michael Barron, director of LGBT youth group BeLonG To, organisers of today’s event, said:

“The President’s ongoing support sends out an incredibly strong and positive message to LGBT young people.

“We must foster a culture of acceptance and equality across Ireland where local communities value their LGBT young people as cared-for and vital members.”

The Irish government has produced draft legislation that would create a form of civil partnerships for same-sex couples but has ruled out gay marriage, claiming that it would require a change to the country’s constitution and a potentially divisive referendum.

The Republic of Ireland will recognise same-sex marriages, civil unions and civil partnerships from other countries when it legalises same-sex unions.

The UK already recognises same-sex unions and marriages from nearly 20 countries, including Canada, the US and France.