Norris v. Ireland  | 1988

Man’s struggle leads to the legalisation of homosexuality in Ireland

I wanted full civil and human rights for gay people. I was outraged by the existence of the criminal law: I thought it was indefensible.

David Norris - © Photo: Council of Europe


The law in Ireland said that certain homosexual activities were criminal offences. David Norris was an Irish Senator. He had suffered from anxiety attacks, deep depression and loneliness after realising that any open expression of his sexuality could lead to a criminal prosecution.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court ruled that the law criminalising homosexual acts had no proper justification. It therefore breached Mr Norris’ right to a private life.

I think [the judgment] was very significant because it led to a change in the criminal law.

Mary Robinson, counsel for Mr Norris and later the President of Ireland - interview with the Council of Europe - © Photo: Council of Europe


The law was changed in 1993 to legalise homosexual acts between consenting adults.


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