Pride in Ireland might never have become the event it is today without the Stonewall Riots of June 1969. The events that took place outside of the Stonewall Inn, a queer bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village, were the result of decades worth of violence and legislation levelled against the city’s LGBTQ+ community.
When police officers raided the Stonewall Inn and subsequently brutalised the bar’s patrons, a six-day-long riot ensued, pitting the New York Police Department against the primarily Black trans women who frequented the venue. Notoriously, icon and activist Marsha P. Johnson allegedly threw the first brick, an action that broke decades worth of building tensions.
The Stonewall Riots are often credited with kicking off the sexual liberation movement in the United States. But why, in a conversation about Ireland’s Pride history, is Stonewall relevant?
Because Stonewall didn’t only kick off LGBTQ+ activism in the US, but all over the world, including right here at home. Inspired by the riots, a group of 10 LGBTQ+ men and women formed the Irish Sexual Liberation Movement and marched outside the Department of Justice in June 1974 in protest of the criminalisation of homosexuality.
Five short years later, the first Pride events officially landed in Ireland during the summer of 1979, although it was not officially recognised by the Irish government.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, it was particularly dangerous to be LGBTQ+ in Ireland, and the government at the time was particularly active when it came to censoring any and all pro-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in the media.
Similarly, violence against the LGBTQ+ community was rife throughout the country. Perhaps most memorably, the brutal homophobic murder of Declan Flynn in Dublin’s Fairview Park in 1982 made it evidently clear that queer people were at high risk at the time.
Declan’s killers walked free in March 1983 having received suspended sentences despite admitting to “queer bashing” the victim. Following the verdict, members of Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community, along with other civil rights organisations, bravely marched from Liberty Hall to Fairview Park demanding justice. This demonstration prompted the first Dublin Pride march later that year in June 1983.
The 40th anniversary of that famous march to Fairview Park and the first Dublin Pride Parade and the 30th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland. pic.twitter.com/fIP0D4U9qN
— Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride (@DublinPride) March 19, 2023
Thankfully, there were some safe havens (though few and far between), like the Hirschfield Centre, where the Irish LGBTQ+ community could find safety during these turbulent decades. More queer people across the country became aware of the Hirschfield Centre when then-Senator/future-President Mary Robinson unveiled a Pink Triangle symbol outside the venue in 1981.
While the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in Ireland was a slow-moving process, cultural acceptance would slowly start to take shape throughout the country.
One of the main cruxes of the early LGBTQ+ rights movement in Ireland was the fight to dismantle the long-standing laws that criminalised homosexuality.
Formally known as the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform, David Norris, a scholar and representative of Seanad Eireann, lead the charge. While the campaign would find legal success in 1988, the laws banning homosexuality in Ireland would not be officially removed until 1993.
Throughout the turbulent years during which the community was fighting for equal rights and decriminalisation, Pride took a back seat, with no celebration taking place from 1986 to 1992.
In 1992, Dublin’s Pride Parade was re-launched, taking place on July 4.
Over the coming decades, Dublin Pride would expand into what it is today–a week-long celebration of the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland and around the world. Where the first ‘unofficial’ Pride was attended by a mere ten trailblazers, Dublin’s 2022 Pride parade was attended by upwards of 10,000!
Today, Pride celebrations have fanned out all across the country. No longer isolated to Ireland’s capital, parades can be found from Galway to Cork, from Mullingar to Donegal.
While Pride was originally relegated to the month of June in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, contemporary Irish festivals are spread across the calendar, starting in May and stretching all the way into September.
Ireland’s Pride festivals have not only grown in size and location, however, but also in terms of inclusivity. The first Irish Pride was referred to as “Gay Pride”, referring to a very limited portion of the overall LGBTQ+ community.
This was expanded in the year 2000 when Dublin’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride parade was announced. Today, while Dublin’s main Pride festival is intended to be inclusive to all members of the LGBTQ+ community, there are a number of Pride celebrations across the country servicing more niche sectors of the community, such as Trans and Intersex Pride, Queer Asian Pride, and Bear Pride.
Pride went uninterrupted in Ireland from 1992 until 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic diverted celebrations to an online setting for two consecutive years. Thankfully, Pride returned with a vengeance in 2022, and continues to grow from strength to strength.
The newest chapter in Ireland’s Pride journey is nearly here, with 2023 celebrations already underway in certain parts of the country. Dublin Pride 2023 kicks off on Monday, June 19 celebrating its 40-year anniversary.
— Gay Community News (@GCNmag) June 1, 2023
You can learn more about this year’s parade, events, and performers here.
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