Irish Senator discusses struggle to come to terms with son's sexuality: 'I cried for weeks'

Irish Senator Eamonn Coghlan has called on Ireland to vote yes in the upcoming marriage equality referendum, as he spoke openly about his own gay son for the first time. The former Olympic and World Champion athlete appeared at a public information meeting organised by the Fine Gael LGBT group, where he discussed his initial struggle to accept that his son Michael was gay nine years ago, the Irish Times reports. "I cried for weeks. The hopes and dreams I had for my son were shattered. I felt guilty, almost as if I was to blame for him being gay," Coghlan said. "I tried to cover up my disappointment. While I hugged him, told him I loved him, I had to come to terms that, it was not about me but, about him and his life ahead." The Senator (below center with Michael) went on to reveal how the family had learned that Michael had been bullied for been gay and had suffered health problems as a result. 2015-03-13_iri_7770851_I1 "It transpired that this was all anxiety related because of the struggle he had with knowing he was gay and the bullying he was being subjected to," he told the meeting, before recalling his own "big breakthrough" coming when some of his son's gay friends joined the family on a holiday in Spain. He added: "I got to know them and see how happy he was with his mates." Coghlan called for a yes vote in the May 22nd referendum: "It is clear to me as a parent of a gay child that the marriage equality Referendum is about voting for real people and their lives. “It is not about politics or about voting for a particular party. It is about equality, removing rejection, removing exclusion, removing the guilt, shame and fear that gay people experience. “We have to think of the person, their dignity, their validation, their human freedom to love and to live life to the full. "I was lucky enough to marry the woman of my dreams. Who are we as a nation to deny our sons and daughters the basic right of marrying the person they love?" More stories: Gay Irish Health Minister gives powerful same-sex marriage speech WATCH: Behind the scenes of our naked shoot with Austin Armacost