Graham Norton says he could have been found ‘dead in a ditch’ if he came out as gay in Ireland

Graham Norton passes on life advice to teenagers at his old school

Irish chat king Graham Norton says that if he had come out as gay in Ireland he may have been found ‘dead in a ditch’.

In recent years, Ireland has made significant progress in terms of equality issues and the public voted to legalise gay marriage in 2015.

However, when Norton was growing up in Cork the country didn’t feel so accepting.

Graham Norton

He told the Irish Examiner: “Narrow-minded doesn’t cover it. It was un-minded. It didn’t exist! Ireland’s a great one for ignoring problems. There were no gay people, so you couldn’t be homophobic. It’s like there was no racism because there was no other race. We had to hate Catholics and Protestants because there was no one else to hate!

“If I had come out, it would have been more than difficult. I may have been dead in a ditch.”

Norton was speaking ahead of the release of new novel ‘A Keeper’.

The book is critically acclaimed with reviewers praising the humour and sensitivity of Norton’s writing while also being intrigued by how dark the novel gets in places.

Norton said: “We all have dark times. Maybe it’s because I’m Irish but, for me, dark times are private times. I might talk to friends but I’m not going to write a newspaper column about it.”

One of the characters in A Keeper is worried that her son might be gay. She is relieved to find out that he is actually straight.

Norton said: “If you are a parent, you want the simplest life for your child. People face enough dramas in their lives, with finding jobs, relationships, whatever. Even if you’re the most tolerant ‘I love gay people’ sort of parent, it just means your child’s life is a little bit more complicated.

“It’s not a homophobic reaction, it’s just a thing where you feel you’re going to have to look out for your kid a bit more than you would have.”

Norton added that his parents were happy that he was happy and his sexuality wasn’t an issue for them.

He said: “In my parents’ generation, if you saw a gay person in a drama, the chances are they weren’t that happy. They were either the murder victim, a serial killer, or they’d kill themselves. They didn’t live next door. They were there for a dark reason. To discover that’s the role your kid has cast themselves in is distressing.

“But what’s great is that my father, before he died, and my mum were both part of my world in London. They met me and my partner at the time and have known my friends all those years. My mother is very much part of my whole world and doesn’t worry about me now.”

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Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling