Tears and memories of dark times and loss as trailblazers celebrate 25 years of gay rights

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Tears and memories of dark times and loss as trailblazers celebrate 25 years of gay rights


At the State reception at Dublin Castle last night to mark the 25th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality were Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
At the State reception at Dublin Castle last night to mark the 25th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality were Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Colin O’Riordan

Ukuleles and tropical sunshine – what more could you need for a proper celebration?

But this was more than a party – more than the splendid social occasion that it undoubtedly was.

It was a rebirth.

Back in Dublin Castle, where the magical atmosphere had exploded for the result of the marriage referendum, members of the LGBTI community were invited to remember past pain and injustice, to honour those who had fought to change things – and to rejoice in a future of vivid optimism.

There were tears and memories of dark times and loss.

Some 700 people were invited to the State apartments of Dublin Castle to mark 25 years to the day since the decriminalisation of homosexuality.



Aengus Mac Grianna, right, and Terry O’Sullivan, husband of Aengus’s former RTÉ colleague Micheal Murphy. Photo: Colin O'RiordanAengus Mac Grianna, right, and Terry O’Sullivan, husband of Aengus’s former RTÉ colleague Micheal Murphy. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Aengus Mac Grianna, right, and Terry O’Sullivan, husband of Aengus’s former RTÉ colleague Micheal Murphy. Photo: Colin O’Riordan

Amongst those who gathered in the cobbled courtyard amid the happy strumming of the Dublin Ukulele Collective were former President Mary Robinson, former Supreme Court Judge Catherine McGuinness and former Justice Minister Máire Geoghegan Quinn.

Present was former political editor Ursula Halligan, whose coming-out was one of the most emotional moments of the marriage equality campaign.

Others in attendance included former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh, former RTÉ broadcaster Aengus Mac Grianna and fashion designer Brendan Courtney.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told guests that thanks to their courage, “when many people in society objected or disapproved, you decided to break history, rather than being broken by it.

“Possibly the most remarkable thing about being gay in Ireland today is that it is totally unremarkable. You are no longer that special – though you may think so,” he quipped mischievously.

“And you’re certainly not abnormal. To quote Lady Gaga, ‘Maybe I was born this way’,” he said to applause.

The Taoiseach acknowledged the work done by Senator David Norris for leading the way on decriminalisation, for President Mary Robinson for signing that law into effect 25 years ago, and by Máire Geoghegan Quinn as justice minister at that time.

And he said that while many milestones had been passed, there were many more that needed to come, with legislation required to expunge or remove the criminal convictions of those prosecuted for being gay.

By the summer recess, the Child and Family Relationship Act will be amended to allow same-sex parents to have both their names on the birth certificated of their children, he added.

The Taoiseach also said he would continue to speak up for civil rights at the UN and around the world for those in countries where gay people are still discriminated against, including “South American, the Arab world and, not too far away, Northern Ireland”, which was met with great applause.

Other speakers included Senator David Norris and Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone.

The most emotional speech was given by Niall Behen, a nephew of Declan Flynn, who was murdered because of his sexuality in Fairview, Dublin, in 1982. He said the family would like Declan to remembered for his life, rather than his death.

He said Declan had been failed by the State, after those found guilty of his manslaughter had walked free.

Later, the celebrations at Dublin Castle continued long into the night.

Irish Independent

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