It's Time for a Monument to the LGBTQI+ Struggle, Councillors Say

It was 9 September 1982 when Declan Flynn, 31, was killed in Fairview Park. Five men got suspended sentences for his murder. It galvanised Ireland’s gay-rights movement.

It was March 1983, about six months later, that marchers in Dublin’s first Pride parade walked through the city.

Now, 35 years later, People Before Profit Councillor John Lyons wants a public memorial or monument to commemorate the struggle, and those it brought in as it evolved.

“I think it’s important we acknowledge where we come from,” says Lyons.

Jailed and More

Other councillors agreed that it’s time for a monument.

It has to be pursued in a sensitive way though, said independent Councillor Mannix Flynn, at Monday’s meeting of the council’s arts committee at City Hall. Declan Flynn’s family need to be consulted, he said.

And it should be a significant gesture, he said. One that also acknowledges “the many, many thousands who were in the institutions with me, in the jails with me, in the police stations with me as a child”, said Flynn.

Those “who were set on because of the way they looked … those who lost their lives in this particular country”, he said.

Commercial sponsorship should be kept out of it, said Labour Councillor Rebecca Moynihan.

The corporate nature of this year’s Pride march was one of its “more disappointing aspects”, she said. “I think it’s very important that this is done by the citizens of Dublin, for the citizens of Dublin.”

More Urgent

Pride week has been “really going” since 1979, says gay-rights activist Tonie Walsh.

He helped organise the first Pride march in 1983, and an earlier march from Liberty Hall to Fairview Park. Declan Flynn’s murder, and the march that followed, “accelerated the development of Pride”, says Walsh.

He has been pushing for another memorial right now, though. One he thinks is needed more: an Irish AIDS memorial.

“I think that’s actually more urgent,” says Walsh.

It could be a place to collect and share stories to educate a new generation about the AIDS crisis in Ireland, he says.

If the council opts for a public monument to the LGBTQI+ movement, though, Walsh suggests a plaque at 10 Fownes Street in Temple Bar – the site of the Hirschfeld Centre, an LGBT community centre.

The centre marks its 40th anniversary next year, Walsh says. Which “seems a fitting moment to mark its significance”.

Lyons suggested a couple of plaques, maybe. One at Liberty Hall, where people took to the streets in 1983, and one in Fairview Park, where Flynn was murdered.

Asking Around

It’s now over to City Arts Officer Ray Yeates and Public Art Manager Ruirí Ó Cuiv to thrash out what happens next.

The arts office is under “considerable pressure” from so many requests for commemorations, Yeates said at Monday’s meeting. Finding space for them is tough.

Also, there’s the issue of cost. “Public artworks are very expensive,” said Yeates – usually around €100,000 for each piece.

Moving forward in the process, you start to grapple with sensitive questions. “Translation is very different from feeling,” said Yeates. “You have to navigate a whole spectrum of ideas.”

But getting feedback is the best way, he said. Which includes consultation with Declan Flynn’s relatives and the wider LGBTQI+ community.

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Cónal Thomas: Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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