Same-sex civil marriage and protection for LGBT students in schools are just two of the positive steps which may result from new legislation published in Ireland today.

The proposed legislation will create a new body in charge of human rights and equality, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC). This merges two previous organisations, the Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission, and will have a direct impact on the LGBT community in the country.

The definition of ‘human rights’ will be changed in the new body to include ‘new and emerging human rights’, including the needs of LGBT individuals.

Brian Sheehan, Director of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network in Ireland, said this new definition would enable the IHREC to support access to civil marriage for same sex couples, in line with growing support for marriage equality in the country.

Under the new plans, LGBT equality will be a high priority and mainstream public services will be adapted to suit the needs of the wider community. Sheenan said this could extend to schools, who would be obliged to consider how their LGBT students were being treated and put protective measures in place to help and protect them.

He said: “A strong culture of equality and respect for diversity are key components of a healthy society and play an important role in economic competitiveness, in particular in nurturing, attracting and retaining people with the skills and talent needed to drive innovation and creativity.”