Tuesday 18 December 2018

Clouds over the rainbow lift at sun-kissed Pride

There were many beautiful moments to gladden the heart at yesterday's Pride, writes Donal Lynch

former President Mary McAleese, her husband Martin, her son Justin and his husband, Fionan. Photo: Fergal Phillips.
former President Mary McAleese, her husband Martin, her son Justin and his husband, Fionan. Photo: Fergal Phillips.
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

England's 'stately homo', Quentin Crisp, once said that "if you simply wait long enough in this life, you will find yourselves having travelled from the outskirts of acceptability to the very heart of society".

Dublin's public face confirmed the truth of that statement this weekend. Government Buildings glowed with the rainbow colours. The tech firms around the 'silicon docks' had swathed themselves in Prideful slogans such as 'love is love' - most of them had floats in the parade. And, of course, the pubs in town had bedazzled themselves with glitter, rainbow bunting and phrases like 'yas queen'.

The hordes of young people with their faces painted, their hair dyed and their sponsored merchandise, showed that Pride, once a protest, has become a festival; inclusive, accessible and not a little corporate (Tesco was the sponsor this year). Members of the defence forces marched - the uniforms were triggering for some in all sorts of ways - and politicians such as Paul Murphy swapped the figurative bandwagons for literal ones. Peter Tatchell - the famous British human rights campaigner - was one of the notable overseas guests and a link to the event's activist past, as was Queer Action Ireland's memorable banner: 'You only gave us rights because we gave you riots'.

If gay Ireland is now at the heart of society, it did not appear, to some, to be quite at the heart of the capital, however.

On Google maps, the path of the Pride Parade itself was laid out in rainbow colours but the playwright Philly McMahon was amongst those who noted that the route - which led from St Stephen's Green to Smithfield Square, but avoided many of the main thoroughfares - showed that the parade had now been shunted into the city's corners, a strange decision.

There were other clouds over the rainbow too; last week a brick, wrapped in a curious Irish-language slogan ('Piteoga amach as Eireann' - fairies out of Ireland) had been thrown through the window of the probable epicentre of Pride - PantiBar on Dublin's Capel Street.

Moe Coakley (centre) with Bank of Ireland staff members Layla Azaid and Grace O’Sullivan.
Moe Coakley (centre) with Bank of Ireland staff members Layla Azaid and Grace O’Sullivan.

A teenager was apprehended by staff and Panti tweeted that he'd said, "I don't like dem etc" - the young man was later arrested - but the incident seemed redolent of a darker time in Irish gay history.

In a separate attack, Collie Aquino Teixeira McQuillan, from Mexico, and his Brazilian-born husband Gui, said they were "mindlessly" set upon by a group of men with hurleys earlier in the month.

The photographs of McQuillan's horrific facial injuries helped an online appeal for funding to pay for medical treatment to smash past its target, a sign, perhaps, that despite the ominous echoes of Fairview Park, this really is a new Ireland.

There were other beautiful moments to gladden the heart on this, one of the hottest days in living memory. Justin McAleese, the son of former president Mary McAleese, marched with his mother and father, and his husband, in a moment that must have seemed emblematic for families around the country.

Prior to the parade, Justin told the Sunday Independent "what a day it's going to be. I couldn't imagine as a 13-year-old child, growing up in the Aras, realising I was gay, that 20 years later myself, my husband, my parents and family would be walking in Dublin Pride.

"We've come a long way down the road of equality. No longer are we under the thumb of dogma and doctrine, no longer will we accept families being torn apart because of sexual orientation."

He added that he and his husband, Fionan, "are so lucky to be living in this great Ireland - thousands of great people who came before us weren't so lucky and we'll be thinking of them today, too."

This year, issues around transgender rights were discussed here like never before and were a particular theme at this year's parade; Sara Phillips, the chair of TENI (Transgender Equality Network of Ireland) was the Grand Marshall of the parade and the transgender flag - distinct from the rainbow flag - flew above a number of public buildings, including the Royal College of Surgeons.

The weekend also provided a fillip for what some see as a declining gay scene in Dublin (one theory put forward is that young people don't believe in ghettoising themselves and prefer mixed venues).

Despite there now being only two full-time gay venues in the capital, the various club nights organised to celebrate Pride sold out long in advance of it. And in a sign that Pride really is the gay New Year's Eve/Paddy's Day, at least one of those venues jacked up the entry price by 100pc for latecomers, who could count themselves lucky to get tickets.

By 2pm, the buzz in St Stephen's Green had reached fever pitch, and several people had begun to wilt in the intense heat. Then the long wait was over.

Members of the army's brass band blasted out YMCA and a procession of colour and fun flowed through the streets, toward the northside, like warm cream over strawberries.

Sunday Independent

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