Pride, as relevant in Ireland today as during Stonewall


There will be celebrations of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT)
 Pride across Ireland this summer, including Cork's Pride Parade on June 5th and Dublin's Parade on June 26th. The original Pride marches were held to commemorate the Stonewall riots in New York which began on June 28, 1969, and which were led
mainly by working class Black and Puerto Rican trans people, butch dykes and drag queens sick of being beaten up and arrested by the police. The following year, in commemoration of the riots, the Gay Liberation Front organised a march from Greenwich Village to Central Park. Almost 10,000 women and men attended the march. Today, many major cities all over the world hold LGBT/Queer Pride Marches on the last Sunday of June in honour of Stonewall.

Nowadays Pride celebrations are more like big parties and the politics can get lost. The increasing commercialisation of Pride can lead to situations like Manchester Pride where you can only access the gay village during the Pride Festival by buying a wristband that costs around £50! Queer people have won a lot of victories in recent years and some people think we don't need to fight anymore.


But the Catholic Church, an openly anti-gay organisation, runs most of Ireland’s school’s and hospitals and it has sweeping exemptions under equality legislation. A nurse or a teacher can legally be sacked for being queer. The civil partnership legislation, which is currently being written into Irish Law, will formalise our status as second-class citizens. Civil partnerships will, for example, make no provision for recognition of the children of same-sex partners and won't give immigration rights to the partners of Irish citizens. Yet the numbers of people on the protests against civil partnership are tiny compared to the turn out at Pride Parades, despite the overwhelming feeling among queers in Ireland that we are being offered much less than equality.

Also, we could so easily lose the gains that we have made. Since medieval times, queer communities have been making progress in economic good times, only to get stomped on again as soon as there's a recession. Late medieval transvestite subcultures were driven deep underground by persecutions that were part of the witch-hunts from the 14th to 17th centuries. The long depression of the last quarter of the 19th century saw persecutions that included the trial of Oscar Wilde. The powerful 
homosexual, feminist and sex reform movements of the early 20th century were mostly crushed by fascism, Stalinism and the conservative climate of the Fifties. During the depression in Britain in the Eighties, Thatcher introduced anti –gay laws.

To quote from the blog of Panti Bliss, Ireland's best-loved drag queen, “what we need is righteous anger. What we need is a Stonewall riot ... 1,000 gays to get angry on the street. What we need is 2,000 gays with eggs to turn up at the Lenister House railings at Merrion Square and have them hail down on the cars of country TD’s, to chain the gates shut, to refuse to move, to pour paint on the pavements. What we need is for 50 gays to get arrested. So what if we get arrested? A day in court and a fine? We’ll have a whip round! But we need to get angry.  ”

It’s not something we have to do on our own either. The current wave of Irish LGBT Liberation started with (mainly straight) feminists, trade unionists and peace activists marching with us through Dublin in 1983 in outrage at the decision of Justice Sean Gannon to not jail four bigots for their roles in chasing and beating to death a young gay man, Declan Flynn, in Dublin’s Fairview Park. We cannot depend on politicians to fight our corner, we can only rely on the working class to do it with us.