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Friday 2 June 2023 Dublin: 12°C
# love is love
As Dublin Pride kicks off, we look back at some LGBT landmark moments in Ireland
Tonie Walsh, curator of the Irish Queer Archive, reflects on some of the defining moments of the LGBT movement.
It’s about presenting ourselves to the world, unapologetically, and defining our space in the world.

EVERY YEAR MEMBERS of the LGBTQ community – along with their allies, friends and families – gather in locations around the world for the celebration that is Pride.

There were extra special festivities at the Dublin Pride last year after the marriage equality referendum officially passed. That was 33 years after Ireland’s first Pride parade – held in far different circumstances.

Gay Pride Festival 2015 Leah Farrell / Gay Pride 2015 Leah Farrell / /

This year, alongside the annual Pride parade, there are a host of events being organised – including talks, discussions and after-parties.

Ahead of the celebrations, spoke to Tonie Walsh, who has been collecting photographs and documents from the past four decades, relating to the LGBT movement.

The activist talked us through some major landmarks, from the beginning of an Irish LGBT movement to the modern-day Dublin Pride (we’ve chosen to focus on just a few key events for the purposes of this article).

1974: Ireland’s first LGBT public demonstration

In 1974, a group of ten people protested outside the Department of Justice and the British Embassy against laws that criminalised homosexuality. Walsh described the group as “very brave people from Belfast, Dublin and Cork”.

The British Embassy was chosen as a protest site because the law in question – the Offences Against the Persons Act – dated back to the Victorian era.

According to Walsh:

The event was hugely important, it marked a very distinct and public awareness of LGBT that had never been seen before in Ireland.

1053091_520356278017794_1057935543_o Irish Queer Archive Facebook Page / Garreth Miller Irish Gay Pride Day, Saturday 27 June 1974. Irish Queer Archive Facebook Page / Garreth Miller / Garreth Miller

1983: Ireland’s first Pride parade

After the murder of gay man Declan Flynn in 1982, Walsh said that something had changed in the LGBT community.

There had been Pride weeks before, but never Pride marches… There was a distinctive shift in people’s anger and people’s desire to reclaim the streets.

In 1983 Ireland hosted a Pride week and the first Pride parade – known as the Gay Rights Protest March.

Walsh said it was hugely important:

It witnessed close to 200 people walking defiantly and noisily from St Stephen’s Green to Grafton Street and then down to the GPO.

Referring to the name of the march, Walsh acknowledged that pride wasn’t mentioned at all – but described the Gay Rights Protest March as a way to channel pride through a sense of outrage.

Walsh described the LGBT Pride movement as making “slow but visible progress” from the 1980s onwards.

Irish Queer Archive Facebook page A flyer for Gay Pride Week 1983. Irish Queer Archive Facebook page

1993: Overcoming legal hurdles

The European Court of Justice ruled that homosexuality should be decriminalised in Ireland in 1988, but the Irish government was slow to process the judgement.

By 24 June 1993, the Criminal Fraud (Sexual Offences) Bill had passed all stages in the Dáil. The following Saturday, the Dublin Pride parade was held:

Obviously the Pride parade in 1993 was a huge deal with the decriminalisation of sex with men. David Norris, Mary Robinson and a team had spent years processing it through the courts.

Walsh maintains that it’s impossible to overstate the significance of the law change. “It removed the aura of criminality and was a major marker for equality.”

The “explosion” of LGBT services from the mid-1990s onwards was a sign of how important the change in law was, according to Walsh.

GAY PRIDE DEMO SEXUALITY DRESSING UP Leon Farrell / Gay Pride March 1993 Leon Farrell / /

2015: Same sex marriage referendum

Walsh said we can still see the positives flowing from the same-sex marriage referendum, which passed in May of last year.

Because we had to have a massive conversation, an intimate and sometimes fractious one, this allowed us to get further into a conversation about the type of society we want for our children and grandchildren.
Last year was extraordinary in terms of legislative change. It brought us closer to imagining ourselves as equal and cherished citizens.

Walsh said Pride has reached out to everyone with the message: “Come and join us in this annual midsummer festival with a big queer heart.”

There are thousands of LGBT members, their families, allies and peers simply walking and claiming the streets of Dublin.

10/5/2015 Gay Marriage Equality Referendums Mark Stedman / Yes Equality event at Merrion Square in May 2015. Mark Stedman / /

What is the Irish Queer Archive?

The Irish Queer Archive, which Walsh curates, is a collection of material dating back to 1974 relating to the LGBT movement. Stored in the collection are papers on the Irish gay rights movement including Gay Health Action, the Dublin Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network.

The records are stored in the National Library of Ireland but Walsh stated there are many more records that have yet to be examined, indexed and added to the collection.

While I’m the main public face of the archives, kudos goes to others for developing the collection of records: Edmund Lynch, David Norris and Hugo McManus.

Walsh said the collection is the work of hundreds of people who did it “because they thought it was important for themselves and Irish society”.

It’s only as time goes on that we will we realise how important it is to have this collection.

Tonie Walsh will be speaking this evening about the story behind LGBTQ liberation in Ireland at 6.30pm in The George on South Great George’s Street.

Read: The moments that make you proud to call Ireland home

Read: Irish gay bars are donating money to support the victims of the Orlando tragedy

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