The origin of the Pride movement
1.20am, Saturday, June 1969
A regular and brutal police raid on the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, New York took an unexpected turn as a teenage boy, dressed in women’s clothes, being pushed by a police officer decided to fight back and hit the officer in the head with her hand bag. A lesbian being dragged out of the bar fought off 4 police officers, and as she was finally taken down shouted out “why don’t you guys do something?” And to everyone’s surprise they did. The small group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other normally marginalised clientele of the Stonewall Inn fought back against police brutality and the famous Christopher Street riots began.
Who really threw the first punch has been lost to legend, but the events of that day changed the world for LGBTQ people. The movement for social change of the 1950’s and 1960’s had brought a community together and people who had felt oppressed now felt empowered.
Following the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969, a resolution was passed by the Eastern Conference of Homophile Organisations in Philadelphia on the 2nd of November 1969.
“that a demonstration be held annually on the last day of June” and that it would “encompass the ideas and ideals of the larger struggle that we are engaged in – that of our fundamental human rights”
At the same time as the Pride movement was being born in New York, Dublin was also getting ready to start its own march.
Dublin in the 1970’s
1973 – Sexual Liberation Movement (SLM)
Established by radical members of Trinity College Dublin’s Student Union, though short lived, it marked the beginning of an organised gay rights movement in Dublin.
1974 – The Irish Gay Rights Movement (IGRM)
Established in Dublin on June 4th 1974, the IGRM quickly saw a need to provide a support network for LGBTQ people in the community and set up the Gay Switchboard, originally called Tell-A-Friend due to restrictions on using the word Gay in the phone book. While the IGRM only ran until the mid 1980’s, its lasting legacy is that the Gay Switchboard it established still handles over 2,700 calls a year and celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014.
1979 – Establishment of the National Gay Federation (NGF).
In 1991 the name changed to The National Lesbian and Gay Federation and in 2014 to the National LGBT Federation or NXF for short. The organisation leased a building in Temple Bar, Dublin and established the Hirschfeld Centre, Ireland’s first full time LGBT community centre. In 1980 members of the NGF began to develop what would become The Irish Queer Archive, which is now part of The National Library of Ireland. Over the years they published a number of gay periodicals and since 1988 have published Gay Community News (GCN), Ireland’s longest running gay magazine.
The 1980’s were a difficult and dark time for LGBTQ people in Dublin, as the gay community became more visible they also became the target of abuse and violent attacks, at the same time the community was torn apart by HIV and AIDS.
1982 – Dublin Lesbian & Gay Collective
The Dublin Gay Collective came into being on 1st July 1982. Later known as the Dublin Lesbian & Gay Collective, the small, radical group grew out of the Gay Defence Committee, itself a response to perceived inadequacies surrounding the Charles Self Murder Investigation of 1981-82, when Gardaí rounded up close to 1,500 gay men (mainly in Dublin), in many cases breaching individual civil liberties and rights to privacy in a concerted campaign of harassment -all under the guise of solving a particularly brutal gay hate murder. Throughout the 1980’s it was involved in a number of campaigns including many around HIV and AIDS and the establishment in 1985 of Gay Health Action (GHA) In 1986 it produced the book “Out for Ourselves: The Lives of Irish Lesbians and Gay Men”, the book was the first detailed collection of Irish “coming out” stories. The collective disbanded in 1987.
On the 10th of September 1982 31 year old Declan Flynn was attacked in Fairview Park in Dublin. His 5 attackers kicked, beat him and robbed him. He was left chocking on his own blood on the path, 10 meters from the park perimeter. His attackers later claimed “We were all part of the team to get rid of queers in Fairview Park”
The case came before Justice Seán Gannon. “this” he said “could never be regarded as murder” and gave suspended sentences for manslaughter, allowing the killers to walk free. His ruling along with his comments that they “were cleaning up the area” caused outrage. Within days of the ruling the newly established Dublin Lesbian and Gay Men’s Collective along with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre led 900 people from Liberty Hall to Fairview Park for a rally to demonstrate their anger.
Organised by the National Gay Federation (now NXF) the first Pride Parade took place in Dublin, marching from St Stephens Green to the GPO on O’Connell Street
1988 – Gay & Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN)
Founded by many of the former members of the Dublin Lesbian & Gay Collective and with the support of other gay rights movements of the day GLEN was established as a LGBTQ rights umbrella organisation. It has since been granted charity status. GLEN has campaigned to dismantle legal discrimination and has played a pivotal role in work done to bring about major reforms in criminal, employment and social legislation. GLEN remains at the forefront of LGBTQ rights campaigns today.
In 1977 Senator David Norris had initiated a case to decriminalise homosexuality in Ireland, failing in the High Court in 1980 and the Supreme Court in 1983, he went to the European Court of Human Rights in 1988. Represented by then barrister Mary Robinson the case was won, but the Irish government were still ignoring the ruling as we entered the 1990’s.
Things changed on the 4th of January 1993 when Máire Geoghegan Quinn, who years earlier had become the first woman to hold an Irish cabinet post since Countess Markievicz, was appointed Minister for Justice. Reacting to the mother of a gay man who had asked her what she would do if her son was gay and criminalised, she began to work. By Friday June 24th the bill had passed all stages in the Dáil.
The following day was the last Saturday in June and the annual Dublin Pride parade. As thousands marched through the city they chanted:
“what did we want? Equality. When did we get it? Yesterday!”
It wasn’t full equality yet, but it was a huge win for the LGBTQ community and something that we are still celebrating. The bill was signed into law by President Mary Robinson.
The New Millennium
Entering the new millennium Dublin Pride had become the cultural festival of diversity that it is now famous for but the LGBTQ community would not stop their march for full equality. We were no longer criminals but we were a long way from being equal.
2005 – Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI)
TENI is dedicated to ending transphobia, including stigma, discrimination and inequality and fights for social, political and legal recognition of trans people in Ireland. In 2010 noted transgender rights campaigner Dr Lydia Foy led over 22,000 people through the streets of Dublin as Grand Marshall for Pride.
2007 – Noise
An independent non-party political group, Noise began campaigning for equal civil marriage rights in Ireland as well other national and international LGBT rights issues. Over 10,000 people attended their March for Marriage in August 2014.
2008 – Marriage Equality
Marriage Equality was a not for profit, national, single issue, grassroots advocacy organisation whose goal was to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Ireland through the extension of civil marriage rights to same-sex couples. Launched in February 2008, it grew from the KAL Advocacy Initiative: a case to recognise the Canadian marriage of two Irish citizens – Drs Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan.
2015 – The year of YES
Over 40 years of work by dozens of community groups and thousands of activists led to Dublin Pride’s biggest ever march as we celebrated that over 62% of the voting Irish population, 1,201,607 citizens, has said yes to marriage equality on May 22nd. As the year went on, on July 15th 2015, the Irish Government passed the Gender Recognition Act, enabling trans people to achieve full legal recognition of their preferred gender and by the end of the year the Dáil had passed a Bill to make it illegal for religious-run schools to discriminate against LGBT teachers over their sexuality.
Pride in Dublin today
As one by one we overcome inequalities and injustice our festival has become a celebration of diversity in modern Ireland, yet while it is now famous for its carnival atmosphere and pageantry, who we are has not changed.
Marked and at times scarred by significant dates, some to commemorate and increasingly more to celebrate, Dublin LGBTQ Pride still holds the same ideas and ideals. We are a group of rebels who about 40 years ago decided we would not hide quietly and allow ourselves or our friends to be discriminated against or oppressed and who once a year, on the last Saturday of June, take to the streets to remind ourselves and the world that the fight against inequality must march on.
We are rebels, that is who we are.