Irish queer community remembers Declan Flynn following documentary premiere

The Case I Can't Forget, a new documentary about the murder of Declan Flynn, has prompted calls for hate crime legislation.

The image shows a split screen of two portraits from the new Declan Flynn documentary. On the left is a photograph of Declan, on the right is a screenshot of Tonie Walsh.
Image: RTÉ

A new documentary about Declan Flynn premiered on RTÉ last night prompting the community to call for urgent hate crime legislation.

As well as remembering Declan and his life with friends and family, The Case I Can’t Forget: The Killing of Declan Flynn, which was commissioned to mark the 40th anniversary of the fatal attack, takes an in-depth look at the circumstances surrounding his murder.

In the early hours of September 9, 1982, Declan was violently ‘queer bashed’ by five men in Dublin’s Fairview Park. He died as a result of the injuries he had sustained. All five men were quickly arrested and entered guilty pleas. However, despite being found guilty in court, the presiding judge, Justice Sean Gannon, awarded them suspended sentences, allowing them to walk free. 

Featured in the documentary is retired Detective Inspector Edwin Handcock who attended the scene. In the interview, he expressed the lasting impact that the vicious attack had upon him. 

“Every time I pass by the park, I remember the murder of Declan Flynn. Especially when I pass by on the train, because you can actually see the scene.  And it all comes back then. Some things you don’t forget.” 

He also recounted much of the events surrounding the murder including how he expected the investigation to be a much longer affair but owing to the guilty pleas, the case was closed abruptly.

The new documentary prompted an outpouring from the LGBTQ+ community in memory of Declan and the resulting verdict. 

Highlighting the legacy of the verdict, the Irish Queer Archive noted, “The #DeclanFlynn murder and its aftermath convulsed a newly liberated LGBT community, leading to the first large-scale public demonstration protesting violence against women and gay men”. 

Activist Tonie Walsh, who appears in the documentary, tweeted, “The legacy of Declan Flynn’s brutal murder and shocking aftermath remain with us today, 40 yrs later.”

Calling out the government’s delay in introducing hate crime legislation, he continued, “Soothing sounds from Gov but still no hate crime legislation nor overhaul of Garda crime reporting. Wake up @merrionstreet !” 

Echoing Tonie’s sentiments, Daithí from Gogglebox Ireland tweeted, “Learning about Declan Flynn’s death in college was the 1st time I realised the necessity of navigating life as an LGBTQ+ person with caution. 40 years later & the hate that lead [sic] to his death is still seen. Ireland’s comes [sic] far but homophobia still lingers”.

Although previous plans to enact hate crime legislation have been deferred, the government has promised that it will be ratified this autumn. 

The Case I Can’t Forget: The Killing of Declan Flynn documentary is available to stream in Ireland on RTÉ Player.

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