Gay History 101: "Erin Go Bragh" Edition

In 1922, after the Irish War of Independence and the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the larger part of Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom to become the independent Irish Free State; and after the 1937 constitution, Ireland. The six north eastern counties, known as Northern Ireland, remained within the United Kingdom.

As a newly independent country, Ireland turned into a very insular, conservative society, dominated by the Catholic Church. Homosexuality was illegal and underground until the 1970s when the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform was led by David Norris, who campaigned for then-current criminalization of homosexuality to be dismantled. In 1980, the case was taken before the Supreme Court of Ireland; losing the case, Norris took it to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled in 1988 against the Irish government. The laws were finally reformed in 1993 by Minister for Justice Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, due to Labour Party pressure. In 2011, civil partnership legislation was passed by the Dail and Seanad, and was enacted into law. Also, in 2011, Dominic Hannigan and John Lyons, both of the Labour Party, became the first openly-gay TDs to be elected to the Dail, and Katherine Zappone became the first openly-lesbian senator.

Today, attitudes in Ireland towards LGBT people are increasingly liberal. A 2013 survey showed that 73 percent of Irish people agreed that "same sex marriage should be allowed in the Constitution.” On 19 February 2015, Taoiseach Enda Kenn announced that the Marriage Equality referendum would take place on Friday 22 May, 2015. The referendum, if passed, will add the wording "Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex" to the Irish constitution. Also on 21 January 2015, the Government announced that a revised draft of the Children and Family Relationships Bill will give cohabitating couples and those in civil partnerships full adoption rights. The bill is set to become law before the May same-sex marriage referendum. The Government hopes to have the bill become law in March.

Oscar Wilde (1854 –1900) was an Irish writer and poet. He became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. Today he is remembered for his epigrams, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, his plays, as well as the circumstances of his imprisonment and early death. At the height of his fame and success, while his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), was still on stage in London, Wilde had the Marques of Queensberry prosecuted for libel. The Marques was the father of Wilde's lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. The charge carried a penalty of up to two years in prison. The trial unearthed evidence that caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with other men. After two more trials he was convicted and imprisoned for two years' hard labour. In 1897, in prison, he wrote De Profundis, which was published in 1905, a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. Upon his release he left immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain.

David Norris (31 July 1944) is an Irish scholar, independent Senator, and gay and civil rights activist. Internationally, Norris is credited with having "managed, almost single-handedly, to overthrow the anti-homosexuality law which brought about the downfall of Oscar Wilde,” a feat he achieved in 1988 after a fourteen-year campaign. He has also been credited with being responsible for rehabilitating James Joyce in once disapproving Irish eyes".

Kathleen O'Brien (1897 – 1974) was an Irish writer whose books dealt with issues of female sexuality in ways that were new and radical at the time. Her 1936 novel, “Mary Lavelle,” was banned in Ireland and Spain, while The Land of Spices was banned in Ireland upon publication. In addition to novels, she wrote plays, film scripts, short stories, essays, copious journalism, two biographical studies, and two very personal travelogues. A feminist, her novels promoted gender equality and were mostly about young women yearning for independence. Kate O'Brien's determination to encourage a greater understanding of sexual diversity — several of her books include positive gay/lesbian characters — make her a pioneer in queer literary representation. She was very critical of conservatism in Ireland, and by spearheading a challenge to the Irish Censorship Act, she helped bring to an end the cultural restrictions of the 1930s and 40s in the country. Like many other Irish writers and artists, she lived much of her life in England.

Graham Norton (4 April 1963) is an Irish comic presenter. Based in the United Kingdom, he is the host of comedy chat show The Graham Norton Show on BBC One. He also presents on BBC Radio 2 and is the BBC television commentator of the Eurovision Song Contest. Norton is known for his innuendo-laden dialogue and flamboyant presentation style, and has won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Entertainment Performance on five occasions. In 2014, he was named in the top 10 on the World Pride Power list.


Like us on Facebook

  • Latest Comments

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS