Activist Suzy Byrne shares memories of the battle for decriminalisation

A past member of GLEN and a journalist for GCN in the early days, Suzy has been campaigning on disability and equality issues for 30 years.

A smiling woman on a zoom call

The latest episode of ShoutOut’s excellent Know Your Queer History series features the incredible Suzy Byrne, an activist for over 30 years who played a part in the fight for decriminalisation.

Suzy was also involved in the early years of GCN, and shared the importance of the magazine in those days before internet. She explained, “GCN was the only outlet for many people to get news about lesbian and gay issues at the time. At that stage when I joined you didn’t have people who were LGBT writing in mainstream press.

“The coverage of gay issues in the mainstream press would have been very focused on hidden stories of people talking about coming out maybe, about maybe some gay pop star, a story in a soap opera or something like that. And then I suppose issues around HIV and AIDS were very much at the fore at that time.

“So GCN, which had been going for a number years at that stage was the only outlet, particularly for people who weren’t living in cities – it was really important.”

Suzy shared the importance of personal ads in the magazine at that time for people to make connections they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

Suzy also became one of the co-chairs of GLEN (Gay and Lesbian Equality Network) during the latter stages of the campaign for decriminalisation. At the beginning, that connection with GLEN gave Suzy almost an inside track on things that were happening for the community at that time – from trade unions, worker’s rights, student rights and campaigns – which she could inform the community about through the pages of GCN.

Suzy was part of the delegations that would go to meet TDs and Ministers to lobby for full equality. Speaking of the fight for decriminalisation, she mentions how it was originally considered to have gay candidates run in the election, before it was decided to get political parties to put decriminalisation on their agenda.

It’s a hugely interesting conversation, and as we’ve only touched on the amount of work she did for the community and for the rights of others, the interview is a must-watch.

Watch the full interview with Suzy Byrne below.

Know Your Queer History, a series from LGBTQ+ education charity ShoutOut, features interviews with 12 trailblazing individuals instrumental in securing equality in Ireland. You can watch it on ShoutOut’s Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram channels.

© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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