- 30 Jun 18
Ex-Presidents, Government Ministers and the Irish Army were among the people celebrating Pride in Dublin today, in what has become the biggest party in the city's annual calendar, after St. Patrick’s Day.
Dublin was awash with rainbow colours today as tens of thousands converged on the capital for the Dublin Pride March, 2018.
Despite the gorgeous sunshine, a dark cloud had appeared overnight, with the attempt to put a brick through the window of Pantibar, in the dashingly multi-cultural environs of Capel Street. The window didn’t cave in – but it was cracked, and the incident provided confirmation that there are indeed still pockets of homophobia in what is an almost universally welcoming city for gays.
That unpleasantness was quickly pushed to one side, as the crowds gathered on St. Stephen’s Green, for speeches – with veteran campaigner David Norris garnering the biggest cheers of the morning, as he recalled the first Pride march, all the way back in 1983, when only seven people turned up!
"In 1974,” David Norris recalled, "a complaint was upheld by RTÉ because I said on air homosexuality wasn’t a sickness. They broadcast an apology."
It is hard to believe – but entirely true.
Norris added that people were sent to prison or the madhouse for compulsory electroconvulsive therapy to 'treat’ them for being gay. "We got no funding,” he said of gay rights groups at the time. "I had to put up all the money for the Hirschfeld Centre. They said they couldn’t give us funding because it was encouraging criminality.”
Against that backdrop, among the more heartening sights today was the presence of members of the Irish army, for the first time ever wearing the rainbow colours, as well as their uniforms. It's a measure of just how far Official Ireland has come since its heyday of grotesque anti-gay sentiment – and laws.
Some soldiers even wore rainbow coloured angel’s wings – one of the daring ways in which modern Ireland has appropriated what had once been symbols of oppression of gays, among others, by religious vested interests here.
There was a great welcome too for the former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, who has become a strong supporter of gay rights, following her son Justin's decision to come out as gay.
Also in attendance were the Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, who is a long-term campaigner for gay rights: she and her partner Ann Louise Gilligan were among the first people to marry – or in her case re-marry – in Ireland following the referendum on gay marriage; and Minister for Health Simon Harris, who also tweeted a 'Happy Pride' message. As part of the celebrations, government buildings were illuminated in the rainbow colours of Pride.
The theme of the march this year was We Are Family – a reference, of course, to the disco classic by Sister Sledge, but also anticipating the upcoming visit of the Pope to Ireland for the Roman Catholic, so-called ‘World Meeting of Families’.
In one of the more bizarre circumlocutions by the ‘Church’, gays have been told that they are welcome at the gathering in Croke Park – while at the same time the bishops and the hierarchy continue to insist that any form of sexual interaction between members of the same sex is sinful – and therefore verboten.
No matter how coyly bishops or priests try to dance around the issue, the stark and unavoidable reality is that gays cannot and will not be accepted in a meaningful way – FOR WHAT THEY ARE – by the Catholic Church.
The point was not lost on the many gay activists involved in the parade, who were protesting against the Pope’s visit, and the rampant homophobia, which has existed – and still exists – within the Roman Catholic Church, despite its rather desperate efforts to insinuate otherwise. After all, these are the people who put the 'sin' in 'insinuate'...
The parade ended in Smithfield, where there were more speeches, including by Mary McAleese.
And now – it’s time to party!