Trinity alumni were among attendees at a state reception yesterday evening to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland. The historic event was held in Dublin Castle.
Trinity senators David Norris and Ivana Bacik attended the reception, with Norris making an impassioned speech on the history of LGBT+ rights in Ireland. Norris, a Trinity graduate and former lecturer in English Literature, said that young people in Ireland “need no longer suffer under the ignominy of shame, guilt, and fear”.
Senator Norris played a crucial role in removing the oppressive legislature in the 1980s and 90s. He was a founder of the Irish Gay Rights Movement and fought for LGBT+ rights through the Courts. He campaigned for a Yes vote in the marriage equality referendum in 2015.
“If gay people were attacked, raped or robed, they could not go to the police, because they would then be turned into the pariahs themselves,” recalled Norris at last night’s reception. “This is our Wizard of Oz moment… We can all now sail happily along the rainbow and up into the rainbow coloured afternoon,” said Norris.
Dublin City University Students’ Union (DCUSU) President Niall Behan made a speech honouring his uncle Declan Flynn, an Irish gay man who was murdered in Dublin in 1982. In his speech, Behan said: “Ireland has come a long way since the 1980s, and if Declan were alive today, he would be living in a much more inclusive society.” Ireland’s first Pride parade took place in March 1983 following Flynn’s death.
Taoiseach and Trinity graduate Leo Varadkar also spoke at the reception to commemorate the anniversary. He remembered the victims of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 90s, saying that government was “far too slow” to respond. Varadkar reflected on Ireland’s progress since that time: “Possibly the most remarkable thing about being gay in Ireland today is that it is totally unremarkable.”
Varadkar also noted the Gender Recognition Act, which recognises legal gender transitions for transgender people in Ireland. Varadkar is Ireland’s first openly gay Taoiseach.
Ireland passed legislation on June 24, 1993 to remove the Sexual Offences Act from the Irish constitution, which had criminalised sexual acts between two men.
Earlier this week, the Irish government issued an apology to those impacted by the law prior to 1993. Speaking to the Seanad, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan offered an apology “to any person who felt the hurt and isolation created by those laws, and particularly to those who were criminally convicted by the existence of such laws.”