Irish President Michael D Higgins has addressed a youth organisation about the evils of homophobia.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Foróige organisation, President Higgins spoke out against what he termed “the appalling, destructive reality of homophobia.”

He went on to discuss the trauma that can arise in young people who are subjected to both homophobic and racist insults and violence: “The idea that any young person would be driven not just to lower self-esteem, exclusion, isolation and loneliness – but [also to] self-destruction – is an appalling blight on a society.”

He added: “We have to ask about how racism gets going, how homophobia does its destructive work, how isolation tears at a person’s wanting to exist, how important every person is. These are important issues, not merely emotional issues.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and former member of Westlife and Foróige Alumnus, Kian Egan, also spoke at the at the 42nd Annual Foróige Leaders’ Conference in Dublin.

Foróige is Ireland’s largest youth organisation, working with almost 57,000 young people and 5,125 adult volunteers.