- 22 May 20
Five years ago today, Ireland made history as the first country to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote. To mark the occasion, we're sharing iconic articles from the Hot Press archives throughout the day – plotting the remarkable road to marriage equality on these shores. In the piece below, originally published in Hot Press in 1983, activist Joseph Healey issues a plea for sanity and tolerance, following the murder of Declan Flynn in Fairview Park, Dublin.
As a gay man, and one who has been actively involved in the struggle for civil and human rights for gay people in Ireland, I felt nauseated by so much of what I heard and saw. Since 1979 I have been involved in several areas of direct action, writing for the gay press, forming social groups for gays, and putting down my experiences as a gay man in the form of poetry which I have read to audiences all over Ireland.
At times the numbing despair of trying to break through prejudice and intolerance has been almost too much, but on other occasions it has all seemed worthwhile, as when a father of a gay man attended a meeting for the parents of gays, and ended up being reconciled to his son, and accepting him for what he was — a human being!
The Fairview Park murder opens up enormous questions and possibilities for Irish society. Are Gay people entitled to equal protection before the law? Should we continue to be treated as criminals, albeit sick ones? Can society continue to close its' eyes to the shameful treatment handed out to gay people, by Church, State, and individual?
Most of the outcry has been over the sentence handed out by Mr Justice Gannon. There are differences of opinion on this point, even within the gay community — some believe that gays, least of all, should join forces with the 'birch 'em, bash' em, hang 'em' brigade. However, there is a glaring discrepancy in the law, when someone steals a bicycle and receives a sentence of six months imprisonment, and a man's life is considered to be of less value.
Mr Justice Gannon further more wavered somewhat from the position of umpire when he remarked, 'queer-bashing what ever that is'. Surely even our revered judges living in their museums in fashionable areas of Dublin, are aware that gay people are frequently attacked, often without the slightest provocation for merely 'walking or talking funny'? In the Dail debate several TD's called for the removal of the judge — the Minister for Justice Mr Noonan replied that under the Constitution this can only be done for 'gross misconduct or incompetence'. One would ask if the release of these four hardened sadists who not only killed and brutally tortured Declan Flynn, but also had the effrontery to boast in court of attacking 150 people, and have now gone on to hold a victory parade at the East Wall, constitutes 'gross misconduct or incompetence'. It would appear that in order to remove a judge from office there would have to be another apparition at Knock!
The Irish Press journalist who was interviewed on RTE Radio and who was one of the gang's victims (although in this case he was only a passer-by) put his finger on the reality of the situation when he stated 'it was obviously an attack on an isolated and vulnerable minority'. Gay people because of sheer hypocrisy and ignorance of this society, are driven to public parks in order to try to contact others. Fairview Park has for a number of years been a place where gays have gone to make these initial contacts. But there can be no suggestion that they caused problems for others who used the park, or were guilty of molesting local people or children. There is no evidence of child-molesting, whatsoever, nor have complaints in this respect been made to local Gardaí. The hatred which has been directed at them through these attacks is therefore an extension of the fundamental prejudices which drive them into the parks in the first place. It is a shocking indictment of our society, and the parallels between the position of gays and those women who have to 'take the boat' are obvious.
Rather than trying to deal with the people involved, their lives, their emotions, they are simply labeled and ignored.
The result of the trial would appear to be that not only ace. gay people criminals in Ireland, but they also don't even receive the protection of the criminal law. The case now rests with the D.PP. who may bring it to the Supreme Court. Whatever the outcome, senseless, mindless violence against gay people must stop, and we all have a role in that, when we reinforce or refuse to reinforce attitudes.
On Saturday 19 March at2.30 pm there will be a march organised by the Dublin Gay Collective from Liberty Hall to Fairview Park to protest about violence against gay people — I ardently hope that my heterosexual brothers and sisters will vote with their feet.