Tuesday 17 September 2019

Editorial: 'We should all take pride in the fight for equal rights'

'We are not quite there yet, but the momentum is formidable and there is no turning back'. Stock photo: PA
'We are not quite there yet, but the momentum is formidable and there is no turning back'. Stock photo: PA


Today the country celebrates Pride with its symbol, the rainbow.

The rainbow generally follows the dark clouds: when colour and light once more break through; much like the history of Pride itself. This weekend also marks the 50th anniversary of a police raid on the Stonewall Inn. Its brutality sparked riots that energised the fight for gay equality in the US.

The stand taken and the refusal to be beaten down is said to have been the catalyst for the modern gay-rights movement.

If today people of the same sex can walk hand in hand without comment, it might too be remembered that right did not come without a struggle and the courage to stand strong and face down suffocating institutional and state powers.

For too long, Ireland was no country for gays, who were criminalised and discriminated against.

If the Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminalised homosexual acts in private in the UK, Ireland had to wait until 1993 for same-sex sexual activity to be legal. And even then, it came only after overcoming hardcore prejudice, discrimination and cruelty.

The genesis of Dublin Pride goes back to the brutal murder of Declan Flynn in 1982. The 31-year-old was beaten to death in a park.

Writing about the incident in these pages recently, Justin McAleese quoted a court report from the time which read: "Five Dublin youths found guilty of the manslaughter of a 31-year-old man in a park walked free from the Central Criminal Court in Dublin after being given suspended sentences of one to five years' penal servitude."

Mr Flynn was kicked and beaten by the youths, acting as a "team to get rid of queers from Fairview Park".

The sense of outrage was fuelled by remarks from the judge that the defendants could never have been accused of murder.

The message, as pointed out by Mr McAleese, was clear: "LGBT lives were not equal to those of our straight brothers and sisters."

And so the first Dublin Pride march took place eight weeks after that judgment.

Today's march hopefully will show we have moved a long way from that repressive and hateful time.

The Rainbow flag will fly over Leinster House. Representatives of the Defence Forces marched for the first time last year. This year members of the Garda will make their first appearance; and the GAA will also participate.

As the heroic gay rights activist Harvey Milk once explained: "It takes no compromise to give people their rights... it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression."

Perhaps it ought not have, but the truth was different.

People suffered appallingly to secure rights that should be theirs from birth.

Today it is fitting to recognise the progress but it is also important to remember an unequal struggle for equality.

As George Clooney put it: "At some point in our lifetime, gay marriage won't be an issue, and everyone who stood against this civil right will look as outdated as George Wallace standing on the school steps keeping James Hood from entering the University of Alabama because he was black."

We are not quite there yet, but the momentum is formidable and there is no turning back.

Irish Independent

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