Thursday 14 December 2017

After a humble start Pride has grown to be party of the summer

Tourists Irene Scarpino and Sara Monsone take selfies in front of law firm McCann FitzGerald’s building lit up in rainbow colours to celebrate the LGBTQ+ Pride Festival. Photo:
Maxwell
Tourists Irene Scarpino and Sara Monsone take selfies in front of law firm McCann FitzGerald’s building lit up in rainbow colours to celebrate the LGBTQ+ Pride Festival. Photo: Maxwell

Nicola Anderson and Sorcha O'Connor

It was a sedate grouping that first sat quietly on the grass in Merrion Square in 1980, picnicking with plastic cups and bottles of wine.

Within three years they had ramped up the sophistication levels, with a cheese and wine reception, debates, film showings and a 'pink carnation day'.

The picnic stayed though. This year could prove to be another historic first for the Gay Pride festival - with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expected to join an estimated crowd of some 30,000 people as the LGBTQ+ community and supporters throw the party of the summer.

The parade will be broadcast worldwide this year by the 'New York Times', and the city is set to be awash with a rainbow of colour for what is the second biggest parade in the country after Dublin's St Patrick's Day Parade.

The theme is 'Finding your Inner Hero' and Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride manager Eddie McGuinness said everyone has come on board.

"Our theme encourages people to look after their mental health as well as sexual health," he explained.

Drag queen Maria Damony celebrates with eBay staff Donna Barton and Stephen Gorman. Photo: Andres Poveda
Drag queen Maria Damony celebrates with eBay staff Donna Barton and Stephen Gorman. Photo: Andres Poveda

This has always been the very nub of the Gay Pride event.

The first spark was struck on June 27, 1974, when a gay rights public demo was held outside the Department of Justice, with eight people protesting the crushing effects of anti-gay laws which saw the community marginalised and people living their lives amid secrecy and fear.

In March 1979, Ireland's first ever LGBT community centre, the Hirschfeld Centre, named after the German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, was set up in the then run-down Temple Bar area of Dublin.

June 1980 saw the first 'proper' Pride week in Ireland, with around 20 lesbians and gay men giving out pink carnations - the symbol for gay liberation - in Dublin city.

And then, in 1982, came the shocking brutality of the murder in Fairview Park of Declan Flynn (31), which changed everything. There was public outrage after suspended sentences were handed down to four youths who had kicked, beaten and left Mr Flynn to die on the path, admitting in court they had been "queer bashing".

The first official Dublin Pride parade was held the following June, with around 200 people marching for gay rights.

Dean Delaney transforms the Tesco logo at the Temple Bar store to celebrate Pride.
Dean Delaney transforms the Tesco logo at the Temple Bar store to celebrate Pride.

Emigration and the devastation of Aids took its toll on morale and it was not until legislation to decriminalise homosexuality in 1993 that things took off.

This year, more than 137 groups are taking part in the parade - from community to corporate groups, with Eir, Bank of Ireland and ESB taking party - while Dublin Bus has wrapped the Number 11 bus in the rainbow flag.

"We're giving the message for diversity in the workforce, not just in wider society," Mr McGuinness said.

The parade has a new starting point, with a rally at noon kicking off the day at St Stephen's Green.

A massive celebration will wrap up the parade at 2pm in Smithfield with drag queens, Eurovision star Linda Martin, and Irish band Eden.

Security has been heightened for the parade and Mr McGuinness said ultimately people should be vigilant and look after each other.

But he emphasised that this warning was not to scare people. Guest speakers include David Norris and Moninne Griffith, Executive General of LGBTQ+ youth group BeLonG To and Grand Marshal of the parade this year.

Ms Griffith, who will march with her partner Clodagh Robinson, said this special day would be greatly tinged with sadness having lost her friend Ann Louise Gilligan recently.

"We're going to be marching with over 250 young people from across Ireland. For some of them that will be their first Pride and that is so exciting and really emotional," she said.

Ms Griffith said the superhero theme represented the resilience among members of the LGBTQ community.

"The superheroes for me are the young people I work with every day, their parents and some teachers who are really working to achieve an Ireland where all young people are safe, healthy and equal," she said.

Irish Independent

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