Cathal Kerrigan and Edmund Lynch reflect on key moments in the Irish Gay Rights Movement

The latest episodes of ShoutOut’s Know Your Queer History series features activists Cathal Kerrigan, speaking on his involvement with Gay Health Ireland, and Edmund Lynch, reflecting back on bringing gay representation to RTÉ

split screen of Cathal Kerrigan (L) and Edmund Lynch (R)

The latest episodes of ShoutOut Know Your Queer History series features Cathal Kerrigan and Edmund Lynch. Kerrigan speaks on his involvement with Gay Health Ireland, while Lynch reflects back on the Hirschfield Centre and bringing gay representation to RTÉ.

In episode 7, Cathal Kerrigan talks of how he got involved in the Irish Gay Right Movement, and how he came to be involved in the founding of the Cork Branch in 1975. It was through reading gay literature and magazines that he realised “we need to organise.” 

He got in touch with the Dublin branch, who connected him with other gay people in the Cork and Munster area. There were about 30 people who came together to found the Cork branch. 

Talking about his involvement in Gay Health Action, Cathal described the huge negativity that surrounded AIDs, particularly around the time of Rock Hudson’s death: “the British tabloids had disgusting stuff” in their news reports. “We were afraid something like that would start to happen in Ireland.”

This prompted Cathal and others to set up Gay Health Action. They had lots of opposition from the government, but they were able to fundraise independently. They received support from the entertainment industry, with RTÉ also becoming involved. 

The death of Vincent Hanley (Fab Vinny) in 1986 made AIDs a public issue in Ireland. People wanted more information but Gay Health Action was the only organisation: “People turned to us.” They were not just giving information to gay men but also to concerned inner-city parents who were aware of the increased use of intravenous drugs. 

“After five years… we still were stonewalled by the establishment.” This led to the creation of new organisations, with the Dublin AIDs Alliance being among them. Today known as HIV Ireland, the organisation had more people involved and reached a broader market of people in need of help. 

In ShoutOut episode 8, Edmund Lynch was involved in the founding of the Sexual Liberation Movement in 1973. The group of 12 people, including David Norris, would meet in the student union rooms of Trinity College. They decided to hold a symposium in February of the next year, but they need publicity and money.

Edmund worked on sound for the Late Late Show at the time and decided to approach Gay Byrne about having someone on the show. He agreed not only to have them on the show but to pay for their flights from London and their hotel room in Dublin. 

Rose Robertson came on the Late Late, she was a founding member of the Parents Enquiry which was an organisation set up to help young people accept their sexuality. Edmund was responsible for getting gay people on the RTÉ’s system. He was able to get them to cover Pride because he knew the system.

Edmund is also one of the founders of the Hirschfield Centre in Dublin, along with David Norris. David was able to secure the premises for the centre. There, they set up a disco called ‘Flikkers’ and decorated it with an old set from the National Song Contest, which was broken and thrown out by RTÉ. 

Also in the Hirschfield Centre, they set up a telephone service called ‘Tel-A-Friend,’ Ireland’s first LGBT+ helpline. This was a vital service for queer people in Ireland, providing a befriending and counselling service for gay men and women. 

Know Your Queer History, a series from LGBTQ+ education charity ShoutOut features interviews with 12 individuals involved in the progression of LGBTQ+ 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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