Today FM “We are facts of nature, not freaks of nature”

TV3’s political editor Ursula Halligan joined The Anton Savage Show in studio this morning for the first interview since she opened up about her sexuality in an article published in today’s Irish Times.

In a piece titled ‘Referendum pointed me towards telling the truth about myself’, Ursula opened up about her sexuality, Catholic faith and her belief that “a Yes vote is the most Christian thing to do”.

Speaking to Anton Savage about suppressing her feelings at aged 17, Ursula admitted:

“I knew that it was just the worst thing on earth. I knew the names that gay people were called and I didn’t want to be one of them. It caused terrible internal mental confusion. Falling in love itself is a beautiful thing but I just knew I couldn’t express (the feelings) or give a hint so I repressed it. I thought to myself ‘I just don’t want to be gay, I want to be normal’. The pressure to conform at 17, I wanted to be like everyone else. I thought I was the only freak in the world.”

Ursula explained to Anton that the only way she could survive was “to try and lock that side of me away”:

“I dated a number of lovely men and I have lovely friendships but I never fell in love with them, that’s the difference. At a certain point then I just shut down completely and thought ‘this is the way it’s going to be’. Before this referendum came along I was resigned to going to my grave with that secret. And there must be so many people who have done that”.

She spoke about how the referendum had become the catalyst in her decision to open up:

“When the government announced it was holding this referendum three months ago, I had absolutely no notion of going public. By nature I’m a very private person. But I was surrounded by debate about the issue. I found myself sometimes getting angry listening to debates and was taking it very personally. The referendum forced me to confront the issue head on. I realised I couldn’t sit on the fence, it was too personal. I knew this was a big historic moment and I thought I cannot remain silent on this issue.”

Ursula explained that she had planned to publish her piece a couple of weeks ago but that it was delayed to the untimely death of her brother Aidan. It was upon receiving a text from her brother Peter, which contained the words of one of Aidan’s favourite quotes – “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter”- Martin Luther King – that Ursula knew the time was right:

“I had such a visceral reaction to the text I thought I had no choice; I can’t remain silent on this. And I thought, if it helped even one 17 year old girl or boy to cope with any anxiety they were feeling about their sexuality, well then so be it. I thought the only way I could do it was to tell the truth and the full truth because that’s the only way we move on.

I hope that in schools around Ireland, young boys and girls – at 17 or 16 or whenever it happens – that their parents will talk to them, will be on the lookout for those signs and will nurture and help them. It will make society just so much better for all of us.

My message is to parents: please, talk to your children, be on the lookout for signs, tell them it’s ok. We are facts of nature; we’re not freaks of nature. I believe in God, I am a person of faith, I’m a Catholic. I believe in a wonderful dynamic God who has created a world rich in diversity and difference and it is only humans that have made difficulties about love.”

Speaking about the overwhelming reaction she’s received to her article, Ursula told Anton:

“It has been wonderful; I have been swamped in the most beautiful texts from people that I will always cherish. It’s like a rebirth”.

Listen back to the full interview here: