Queer History Talk – Wednesday 22nd February 2017

This event was organised by Q Soc. The Trinity LGBT Society. The talk was given by Ms. Laura Finlay: the researcher of the LGBT communities in Ireland.

The focus of the talk was on the climatic change which has taken place in Ireland in recent years in the area of LGBT rights.  Up to the closing years of the 20th. century Ireland was a hostile place for LGBT people. Homosexuality was a criminal offence and LGBT people were ostracised in Irish society.  Foremost in homophobia were the churches; the Catholic church particularly, but not exclusively, so. The Protestant churches and the Jewish community were also homophobic.  State institutions such as the Gardai and the Defence Forces were hostile places for LGBT people.

International events such as the Stonewall riots in New York in June 1969 when members of the LGBT community demonstrated against a police raid on the gay-friendly Stonewall Inn did have an impact in Ireland but progress towards LGBT rights was slow and actively opposed by all the major institutions of the state.

Significant events that led to a gradual change in public attitude included the clerical child sex-abuse scandals in the Catholic Church which significantly weakened that church’s reputation and authority. One major event that altered public perception was the overthrowing of the anti-homosexuality law in 1988 following a fourteen-year campaign by Trinity lecturer David Norris which finally ended in victory when he took his case to the European Court of Human Rights. Norris was elected as a TCD Senator in 1987 becoming the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in Ireland.  He was also the first openly gay person to run for President of Ireland in the election of 2011.

Progress towards gay liberation in Ireland has been significant by any standard with the Irish electorate voting to approve Same Sex Marriage by a 62% majority in the May 2015 referendum.  Recently in October 2016 in launching a recruiting campaign the Defence Forces stressed that LGBT people were welcome to join.

While the underlying causes need further examination, there has been considerable progress in the area of LGBT rights in Ireland.

Contributed by Tom Brace