LGBT: Celebration and Struggle


June last saw another massive Pride in Dublin with approximately 25,000 people taking part. While Pride has very much become more of a social and commercial event since its early years in Dublin it also remains a strong political expression of the ongoing struggles against Queer oppression. There was also a thousands strong “March for Marriage” through Dublin on August 14th, organised by LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Noise, which opposes civil partnership on the grounds that it does not provide similar rights to those of married heterosexual couples.

This years Pride, for the first time, included LGBT Pavee, a Queer Irish Travellers group and there was also a very large “Marriage Equality” contingent. The Transgender Equality Network section of the march, which included a number of large home made protest signs, was probably most reminiscent of the spirit of the original Dublin Pride marches of the 1980’s.
One of the earliest visible mobilisations was a 900 strong demonstration organised by the Dublin lesbian and gay collective against the suspended sentences given to five members of a gang who had beaten Declan Flynn, a 31-year old gay man, to death in Fairview Park in 1982. One of the gang told Garda they had attacked 20 ‘steamers’ (clients of male prostitutes) over the previous 6 weeks.
The National Lesbian and Gay Federation were instrumental in initiating Pride demonstrations in Dublin. Gay activist Tonie Walsh told the Sunday Business Post that: “There had been a Pride event in 1979. The event that year was small-scale, maybe as few as 20 people took part in handing out leaflets in Dublin city centre.”  Pride in the 1980’s was frequently very small with as few as 25 taking part because, according to one participant, Chris Robson, “it was easier to march in that one [Fairview]; to march alongside the trade unionists who came out and marched that day in protest and with other groups; you weren’t identifying yourself as gay…Pride was seen perhaps as being more exclusively a parade for gay people and there was more than a little concern that if one was spotted at this sort of thing that it would get back to the workplace or to family.”
Even in the late 1980’s, when the numbers had grown to over a 100, a gang of small kids shouted insults and threw stones at a Pride march between South Great George’s Street and the bottom of Camden Street. As late as 1987 RTE used criminalisation as an excuse not to run an ad for “Out” magazine and it was not until 1993 that homosexuality was decriminalised. The mass participation in Pride today is a sign of just how much has been won, even if much remains to be fought for, as the ongoing marriage equality protests demonstrate.

From Workers Solidarity 123 Sept/Oct 2011