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 northeastern 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 the 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. 

Same-sex marriage in Ireland became official on November 16, 2015. A referendum on May 22, 2015 amended the Constitution of Ireland to provide that marriage is recognized irrespective of the sex of the partners. The measure was signed into law by the president of Ireland as the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland on August 29 2015. The first marriage ceremonies of same-sex couples in Ireland occurred on November 17, 2015. Ireland became the first country in the world to do so by popular vote in a move hailed as a social revolution and welcomed around the world. Some 6% of the Irish Republic’s electorate voted in favor of gay marriage. 

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day it is only appropriate that we showcase some famous Irish personalities. 

Oscar Wilde (1854 –1900)

“It is impossible to imagine the universe without Wilde’s epigrams,” someone said. Their secret is that they can be at once true and false. As we absorb the paradox, our view of life is extended and enlarged. Here is a small collection of some of Wilde’s best sayings, from his plays and other writings. His wit is never ponderous or pretentious. Wilde is not only gay himself but the inspiration of gayety in others. 

On Women: All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That is his.

On Men: The happiness of a married man…depends on the people he has not married. By remaining single a man converts himself into a permanent public temptation. 

On Love & Marriage: In married life, three is company and two is none. The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties. 

On Youth & Age: The soul is born old but grows young. That is the comedy of life. The body is born young and grows old. That is life’s tragedy. 

On Other People: Whenever people agree with me, I always feel I must be wrong. 

On Morals & Religion: The only difference between a saint and a sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future. There is no sin except stupidity. 

On Books: The books that the world call immoral are books that show the world its own shame. 

On Art & Music: No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did he would cease to be an artist. 

On Modern Times: We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities. Nothing is so dangerous as being too modern. One is apt to grow old-fashioned quite suddenly.

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 14-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.


Pier Angelo was born in Italy, moved to England at the age of 17 and learned English at the Nelson School of English. He attended college and graduate school in Manhattan. In 2009 he founded SFGN with Norm Kent. Now he’s retired with his husband Tom and his Affenpinscher Cabbage. He still enjoys writing his column Off The Wall for SFGN.

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