Airbrushing Our Past – The true History of Dublin Pride starts here!
By: Izzy Kamikaze
There’s a lot of talk today about Dublin Pride, which is great. It’s very exciting to see so many people engaging actively with the idea of what Pride is and what it should be! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Izzy and I have as good a claim as anyone to be one of the founders of Dublin Pride. (I say “as good a claim as anyone” because actually, some parts of the history are a little murky.)
I’ve been unhappy about some aspects of Dublin Pride for a long time, but I’ve kept my mouth shut for various reasons. Firstly, I feel about Dublin Pride the way a mother feels about her first-born child. I would forgive it almost anything. It is the best, the brightest and the most talented in the world! I would not harm a hair on its metaphorical head. I don’t say this in any proprietorial way. I’m sure that everyone who’s ever been involved feels the same way. I’m sure that everyone who’s ever taken their courage in their hands and walked in it for the first time feels the same way. We all love Dublin Pride!
Another reason I’ve kept quiet about objections is that I was afraid the backlash to any comment I might make might hurt my youngest child, the small-but-perfectly formed Northwest Pride, which since 2006 has been performing the miracle of bringing full-on Pride razzmatazz to the streets of the rural Northwest of Ireland – a miracle child, surely!
Two things have happened to make me change my mind. Firstly, northwest Pride decided (at a meeting I didn’t even attend) to write to Dublin Pride to protest about their registration process and the barriers it presents to participation. So, I guess my tiny baby is going to get some flak now, anyway – whether I hold my tongue or not! (And really, it can only be a positive thing for the community to positively engage about what we want our Pride to be. I guess I’m allowed to be part of that too!)
The other thing that’s happened is that the organisers of this year’s Dublin Pride have decided to market it as some kind of thirtieth anniversary shindig. By doing so, they have turned the spotlight on Dublin Pride’s history and the Irish LGBT community’s history. That’s a good thing. The only problem is they are using a lie to do it. For one thing, Dublin Pride is not 30 years old. The handful of very brave people who first publicly celebrated their Pride as long ago as 1979 (I make that 34 years!) are being written out of our history. That’s a grave injustice.
Also, although Dublin was So far as I know, the first city in Ireland to publicly celebrate Pride, it did not do so every year, for reasons that are historically important, which I hope to deal with in a later post. To call this Dublin Pride the 30th, makes it seem like Dublin has had more Pride parades than any other Irish city. Actually, that honour belongs to… Galway! Believe me, Galway, in the early days, was not an easy place to parade the streets with Pride. That’s another injustice right there!
But it is a 30th Anniversary year. It’s the 30th Anniversary of something very important that deserves to be remembered. I know, because I was there…
The Fairview Park March – NOT a Pride Parade!
The Fairview Park March happened in March 1983, the month I celebrated my 20th birthday. I’m proud to say that I was there and as a steward, wearing a pink armband. Pink was the “gay colour” in those far-off days before we ever heard of the rainbow flag!
Some of you are wondering “what the hell was the Fairview Pride March?” Here’s the story. A man called Declan Flynn had been horribly murdered in Fairview Park, a popular cruising area. His killers defence was that they were “cleaning up” their area, protecting their community from “perverts.” They got suspended sentences and walked free. After their release, the killers were reported to have held a victory march through the streets of Fairview…
The Dublin Gay Collective, a bunch of radical queers with which I’m proud to have been associated, decided to hold our own march, in protest at the court’s decision. And this march would not stay in the comparative safety of the city centre. It would go to Fairview Park, where this terrible crime was committed. It would walk through the streets of the North Inner City, where even today, no Pride Parade dares to go. The” perverts” would hold our heads up high and walk through the community these killers had supposedly protected from us, into the area where they had celebrated their great “victory” over us.
It was a very important moment. Some say it was “our Stonewall” and maybe they’re right. It was a scary and yet powerful thing to do. A couple of hundred people took part (I’ve never been much good at counting, once I run out of fingers and toes) and a lot of them, maybe even most of them, were straight. Most gay people were still too scared to march. It was a dangerous thing to do. A lot of the gay people who did take part felt the need for heavy disguise. You could lose your job (if you could even get a job.) You could get beaten up. Hey, you could even get killed – and now we had been told that your killers would probably walk free! There were a lot of scarves and pulled-up collars, a helluva lot of sunglasses for a cold spring day in Dublin!
The banner up the front said “Stop Violence against Gays and Women.” There was a lot of feminist involvement. This was the heyday of Irish feminism and the Abortion Referendum was rumbling in the background (wow- how Ireland has changed!)This was a bunch of queers and feminists and lefties marching for OUR right to life. There was no music, no laughter, no flamboyance. It was more like a funeral than a Pride Parade.
It was a great day, a milestone on the journey of a community that had finally had ENOUGH of this shit! It deserves to be remembered. But it should be remembered for what it actually was. The Fairview Park March was NOT a Pride Parade.