Gay Irish activist Brendan Fay recieves NY Catholic Peace award

The Drogheda born activist and filmmaker was recognised for his campaigning work with the 2022 Eileen Egan Peacemaker Award.

Brendan Fay side-by-side, shown accepting his Pax Christi award and attending the St Pats for All parade.
Image: Image 1: courtesy of Pax Christi. Image 2: Facebook via St Pat's for All

Esteemed Irish activist Brendan Fay was honoured for his lifelong work in human rights campaigning and advocacy for nuclear disarmament. He is the 2022 recipient of the Eileen Egan Peacemaker Award, granted by the Catholic Peace organisation Pax Christi New York.

Fay spent four years as a leading organiser with the group New York Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons, the body responsible for running a successful campaign for nuclear disarmament and divestment in New York City.

Brendan Fay leading the annual 'St Pat's for All' parade in New York.

During his acceptance speech, he accredited much of his inspiration for his work to his Catholic faith. He noted especially the influential effect of the Sisters of Mercy in Athy, whose work encouraged him to become active in his hometown of Drogheda in Co. Louth. He worked alongside Pax Christi and the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Speaking further about his faith, Brendan Fay said it was important for awakening within him a sense of responsibility and a desire to make a difference in the world. His earlier activism protested against apartheid in South Africa and human rights in El Salvador and Northern Ireland in conjunction with Catholic community groups.

“Faith was not simply expressed in prayer and Mass attendance but in a passion for justice and activism for human rights and a world without nuclear weapons,” he said.

Vocal in his identity as a gay man, activist Brendan Fay has also supported the LGBTQ+ rights movement. He was the founder of St Pat’s for All, an alternative to the St Patrick’s Day parades in Manhattan, Brookylyn and the Bronx.

Large scale St Patrick’s Day celebrations in New York had banned gay Irish groups from marching, leading to the inaugural St Pat’s for All for all in 2000, taking place in the historically Irish areas of Sunnyside and Woodside, Queens.

Speaking about the Parade, Fay stated: “The St. Patrick’s parade is the most significant expression of Irish culture and celebration in this city, and the parade in Queens, for many of us, was a first-time experience. It was the first parade since the first St. Patrick’s parade in New York City, which was in 1762, that was open and welcoming to all.”

Prior to this, Fay was heavily involved in forming the Irish Lesbian and Gay organisation (ILGO) in 1988. The group were not allowed to march with their banner at the 1991 St Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan.

Brendan Fay leading the annual 'St Pats for All' in New York.

The mayor at the time, David Dinkins, became the first mayor not to lead the traditional parade. Instead, he invited ILGO to march with him and a local Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH).

In 1993, AOH won a lawsuit that banned gay groups from marching in future parades, regarded as “a celebration of a victory of traditional Catholic values over homosexuals”. However, Fay has never let his sexuality conflict with his religious identity.

He has worked tirelessly alongside Catholic communities throughout his life, producing a number of films focused on his beliefs and his Irish heritage.

© 2022 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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