In an Ireland where we have a gay Taoiseach, marriage equality, adoption rights, gender recognition and laws that prevent discrimination against LGBT+ people, it might be hard to imagine what it was like to live here exactly 35 years ago. In March 1983, a judge handed a suspended sentence to five young people who brutally, and with premeditation, murdered a gay man. With his judgement, Justice Sean Gannon, changed Ireland forever, unwittingly sparking the country’s gay movement.
The man who was murdered was 30-year-old Declan Flynn. On September 9, 1982, he was walking home from his local pub through Fairview Park, which was a known cruising spot for gay men. A gang of five teenagers was waiting for him, one acting as bait; the rest hiding behind trees. When the signal was given they attacked. They knocked him to the ground, kicking him repeatedly and bashing him with branches they had fashioned into weapons. They stole Declan’s watch and left him to choke to death on his own blood. His attackers were Tony Maher (19), Robert Armstrong (18), Patrick Kavanagh (18), Colm Donovan (17), and a 14-year-old boy who could not be named for legal reasons.
“We were all part of the team to get rid of queers in Fairview Park,” Armstrong told the press.
“This,” Justice Gannon said at the trial, “could never be regarded as murder.”
In Ireland of 1983, you could beat a gay person to death and get away with it. The gang who killed Declan Flynn were welcomed home like conquering heroes. The message they were sending to their community and nation was that gay men did not deserve to live.
Days after the killing 900 people marched from Liberty Hall to Fairview Park. It was the first gay march in Ireland and led directly to our Pride movement.
Fairview March Anniversary Vigil – March 19th
We have a different Ireland now, but our LGBT+ movement continues. Among other things, we’re fighting for adequate sexual health services and affordable access to HIV preventative drugs, for proper trans healthcare and recognition of young trans people’s identities, for the eradication of anti-gay bullying in our schools, for adequate hate crime legislation that will specifically protect LGBTs.
But on March 19, the LGBT+ people of Ireland and our allies will also stand united with all the other gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and trans people who are tortured and murdered with impunity in countries like, Uganda, Cameroon, Chechyna, Egypt, Honduras, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, and Russia.
We will also stand firmly with LGBTs in the 63 other countries where homosexuality is a crime, and with LGBTs who are subject to hate crimes in other countries, including the US, where there were 53 transgender murders from 2013 to 2015 and not a single one was prosecuted. May they, and Declan Flynn, whose lives were stamped out simply because of who they were, be remembered and honoured by everyone in our global LGBT+ community.
Join us at 3pm on Monday March 19th in Fairview Park to remember Declan Flynn and every person we have lost along our march for equality. Before we celebrate our victories, we mourn our losses.
© 2018 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
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