Tipp girl felt forced to emigrate over sexuality

Caroline Ronan and Steph hoping for a 'Yes' vote in the upcoming gay marraige referendum.
Caroline Ronan grew up in Tipperary town and emigrated to London at aged 17. Her sexuality was one of the main reasons she emigrated in the 1980’s, as at that time she felt she couldn’t tell her friends and family that she was gay. Caroline and her partner Steph Rawlings now live in Donaskeigh and have been together for nine years and engaged for four. They are hoping for the ‘yes’ vote so they can get legally married.

Caroline Ronan grew up in Tipperary town and emigrated to London at aged 17. Her sexuality was one of the main reasons she emigrated in the 1980’s, as at that time she felt she couldn’t tell her friends and family that she was gay. Caroline and her partner Steph Rawlings now live in Donaskeigh and have been together for nine years and engaged for four. They are hoping for the ‘yes’ vote so they can get legally married.

Caroline’s story:

Caroline was born in Leeds, England and moved back to Tipperary town when she was six years old. She went to primary school in St. Josephs and secondary school in St Anne’s.

“I moved back to England when I was 17. One of my main reasons for leaving was I felt I couldn’t be who I wanted to be due to the strict Irish upbringing we all had back in the 80’s; London had its challenges at the start but I felt free. It opened up a whole new world to me, how people accepted you for whom you are.

I felt a lot of pressure and worry about my sexuality, so when I finally did pluck up the courage to tell my best friend, I was relieved when she said it is ok to be gay and not to worry as all my friends will still love me the same.

From then on I enjoyed life in the UK happy to be ‘out’ but I was still really worried about my life back in Ireland - What would my family think? My Irish friends? This worried me considerably as things were very different in Ireland to England… having a Catholic upbringing meant we were not allowed to be gay.

I kept it a secret from my family in Ireland until my early twenties.

By then life was good, I had my own business and I was also in my first long term relationship with a woman.

Some of my family took it hard at the beginning, as they had no idea that I was a lesbian. I was happy they knew, even though it took some of them a little time to get used to it but in the end they were all fine as long as I was happy.

My first long relationship lasted 15 years and now I’m in a relationship with an English girl called Steph. We have been together for 9 years and although we are looking to buy a home together in the UK, we decided that we would move to Ireland. I was a little worried about moving back to Ireland and what people would think, but I felt that it was the right time to move home.

Steph and I moved to a little village on the outskirts of Tipperary Town. We’ve made some great friendships with people in the village and we are really happy we moved here.

We have been engaged now for 4 years and we are hoping for the ‘yes’ vote to go through so we can legally get married.

There are many young gay people in Ireland many of which have committed suicide due to not having been accepted by their family or friends. This is not acceptable…. We need the ‘yes’ vote so more and more people in our situation will be able to reach out for support and equality.

Parents need to support their kids no matter what their sexuality and show the world that Ireland is supporting its children so that they get the equality they deserve. Vote ‘yes’ and set them free from their pain, from the bullies, from self-harm and suicide.

All we want is the right to be free to love who we want to love.”