Meet the Volunteers: Pat
Meet Pat (he/him), Dublin Pride Volunteer by day, Social Democrat by night.
Posted on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - Back to News Stories
Pat (he/him) has been a dedicated volunteer with Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride since 2015 and Chief Marshal and coordinator of the Pride Parade since 2018. He is also a member of The Social Democrats.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t have a full-sized Pride Parade in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but with a lot of planning and coordination with the HSE and emergency services, we were able to organise a scaled-down version. Even if it was just for a short 15 minutes, we were able to come together and march together with pride.
How did you first become involved with Dublin Pride?
“About a month before Pride 2015, an advert looking for volunteers appeared on my Facebook feed, and I thought, ‘Yeah, why not. Why didn’t I think of Pride before!’ 2020 was my 6th parade as a Dublin Pride volunteer – I guess you could call me a ‘serial volunteer’ – and being part of a socially-distanced parade with less than 40 LGBTQI+ community members, was definitely a strange experience.”
What does the role of Chief Marshal and Pride Coordinator involve, and what are some of the challenges you face?
“As Pride Coordinator, my role is to organise the Pride Parade. I love marshalling and crowd control. From figuring out the order of vehicles and walking groups to making sure that certain criteria were met. For example, putting LGBTQI+ groups near the front and making sure vehicles aren’t crammed together. As Chief Marshal, I then have to put the parade together on the morning of Pride Day and make sure it gets safely from A to B.”
How do the volunteers fit into this?
“In a normal year, the Dublin Pride Parade is so big that it needs a crew of nearly 300 to pull off. We need people to marshal the parade, help with the stage, grandstand area and work stalls, direct crowds – all manner of jobs! Without volunteers, the Dublin Pride Parade would not be able to happen.”
What is the relationship like between the volunteers?
“The day of the Pride Parade can be very stressful. That’s why it’s important that my team doesn’t just trust me, but also trust each other. The volunteers have to know that I have their backs, and I have to know that they have each other’s backs. I also need to know that if I ask someone to do a job, particularly one of the senior volunteers, that it will get done. Sometimes you might not think a job is important, but it could make or break the parade.”
How does Dublin Pride prepare their volunteers for the parade?
“Every year, Dublin Pride marshals receive extensive training. Areas covered are crowd and vehicle safety, dealing with members of the public, and de-escalation. On top of that, core volunteers have the opportunity to partake in formal training through an external agency and receive recognised qualifications. This is to make sure that senior volunteers in the core team, for example, can manage a section of thousands of parade attendees. The number of people attending Pride gets bigger and bigger each year, and volunteers need to be able to handle this influx of people.”
What has been your most memorable moment while volunteering for Dublin Pride?
“In 2017, I was Assistant Chief Marshal. The Chief Marshal that year, Gilly, had already announced that she would step down after 2017 and that I would take over in 2018. On the day of the parade – it was our first year in St. Stephen’s Green – Gilly was late. By the time she got there, I already had things underway, so she left me to it. I didn’t realise what she was doing and carried on with the day. It was only afterwards – when I congratulated her on another successful parade – that she turned to me and said, ‘You realise you just ran today’s parade, right? I just let you do it!’ It hadn’t occurred to me at all, but I remember thinking, ‘Wow! I can do this! I just did this!'”
You’re not just an active member of the LGBTQ+ community but also the Social Democrats. How did you first become involved in politics?
“I first got bitten by the politics bug at DIT. I personally think DIT is the best college in Ireland, and I really enjoyed studying there. As a student, I volunteered for loads of things, and it was DIT’s LGBT Soc that got me to my first Pride Parade in 2013. I actually met a lot of the people that are now core members of the Parade Team through college. I was a late bloomer when it comes to being active in the LGBTQI+ community, but there’s no time like the present!
At DIT, I also became involved in student politics, both on a college and national level, which led me to join the Soc Dems. I’ve always been a left voter but never a party member. I’ve always been a big fan of Róisín Shortall, so when she quit Labour and started a new party, I was in. At that time, I was very much disillusioned with other left-wing parties.
I don’t think that my involvement with the Soc Dems has anything to do really with me being a member of the queer community. However, their policies on equality, including queer rights, are very important to me. I would not stay with the party if they were not 100% in favour of gender equality, women’s rights, trans rights and queer rights.”
Where else can we find you?
“I volunteer mostly behind the scenes, things like operations, logistics, volunteer management, venue liaison, facilities. All the stuff people never get to see. Besides the Pride Parade, I’ve stewarded student protests, the AVIVA Stadium and St. Patrick’s Day. I also do a lot of geek conventions. I’m involved in five or six a year, including the World Science Fiction Convention Worldcon. Now and then I’ll step up to the plate and run one. I ran Octocon, Ireland’s annual science fiction convention, in 2017. I started and ran a gaming, anime and science fiction convention at DIT for two years. Last year I ran the first-ever virtual Gaelcon, Ireland’s Premier Games Convention, and fell short by a couple of weeks, of running Ireland’s first-ever virtual geek-style convention.”
What does pride mean to you?
“I grew up in a world where being gay or queer wasn’t socially acceptable. As a teenager in the 80s, I didn’t even know that being bisexual existed, and I was very confused and worried that I might be gay. Oh, the horrors! I was in my late 20s, maybe early 30s, when I came to terms with my identity. Once I’d accepted myself, I wore it like a badge of honour, and since then, I’ve never tried to hide who I am. Today, things, while not perfect, are a lot better than when I was young. I hope that by being out and proud, I can help other people – young and old – to accept themselves for who they – or rather who we – are. The more open we are about the LGBTQI+ community, the more it will be accepted and become a normal thing. Like being left-handed or having green eyes. I want to live in a world where coming out is either not a thing or everyone does it, and you come out as gay, bi, fluid, pan or straight.”
At Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride, we run events all year around. If you are interested in joining the volunteer team at Dublin Pride, please fill out this form.
Photo credit: Pat Maher