Transcript of Donal Óg Cusack's speech
Below is an edited transcript of Dónal Óg Cusack's speech given at the Foyle Pride Festival
It's an honour to be here this evening. I come from a small village in east Cork called Cloyne. How do I describe home? Well. If I decide to walk to the shop and back that's pretty much the gay pride parade done for the year. So if you guys think you have come a long way, for me being here tonight is like playing Radio City Music Hall.
Growing up in Cloyne we didn't have a gay scene. We didn't have any scene really but we especially didn't have a gay scene. So I've always been a little bit innocent in that way. I was thinking of that on the drive up here today, something that happened just a couple of years ago when I said to a straight friend of mine that I thought a man we both knew might be gay.
What makes you think that? he said.
Ah, he just used a word there yesterday that only gay people would know.
Really said my friend, what was that?
I looked around as if I was about to give away a state secret of the gay republic of cork. I practically whispered it.
About twenty minutes later when he'd stopped laughing at me he explained that there were fellas running the Taliban in downtown Kabul who would be making jokes about who had the best gaydar.
What about in the DUP? I said.
Time, Dónal Óg. All in time.
It's a long drive up here and I had plenty of time to think along the way ( that won't necessarily be reflected in this speech which is stuff I lifted from Wikipedia!). It struck me as an odd thing to be driving all this way to open this festival knowing that when I get here most of the audience will neither know nor care about who or what I am and knowing that back home there's a section of the world who would see me being here as the only thing that I am.
This county has given us Heaney and the Undertones and must also bear responsibility for Joe Brolly but it hasn't given us much by way of hurling, the worlds greatest sport. So to those of few who are curious I see myself as ticking a serious of boxes most of which would have got me kneecapped in various places at various times of my life.
Dónal Óg Cusack. An Irish name and the sum total of the Irish language that my parents have ever used. If I ever break down in certain parts I pretend to be my brother Victor. I'm a hurler. A goalkeeper. A GAA member. In Cork though I'd be kneecapped first for being a trouble maker who has organised a series of player strikes or for my short puc out strategy which in Cork is far more controversial than who I sleep with.
And I'm an out gay man. For me that's a small part of the deal. Half a chapter maybe in a lifetime's story. But if out of curiosity you come to see me play and can't pick me out because we all wear helmets I'll be the one just in front of the loudmouth on the terrace with the megaphone. He'll be singing
he's gay/he's bent/his ass is up for rent/ Dónal Óg/Dónal Óg.
People around him will be looking embarrassed and I'll be staring up the field.
Not giving a f**k.
I thought of that today as I drove from Cork as the place names started ringing different bells with me. The villages around home where I grew up, then the places with hurling clubs I'd have played against regularly. The further I travelled the more peoples definition of me changed. Yet on every mile of the journey I remained just me. You all know that experience. People defining you in different ways and you realising that you are you and and always you.
Onwards through places I associate with different people I'd know and then as I crossed the border all the place names suddenly seemed to remind me of the troubles and the journey got to be about my own lazy definitions. I got to wondering if GAYDAR north of the border comes with more advanced settings than we have down south. If I grew up here and walked into a crowded room like this would I be saying to myself Gay Shinner at three o clock, orange order tranny marching in the hallway, free presbyterian pansexuals serving the snacks.
And when you travel down that road the whole business of labelling people and defining them and putting them into social ghettos gets to be almost as comical as it is dangerous.
This is a city that knows that too well. I'm conscious that standing here in this place and in this company and there's not much a person like me can tell you about rights. Whether you call it Derry, LondonDerry, Foyleside or Stroke City this town will always be synonymous with civil rights. You don't have to know a lot about history to know that in the summer of 1969 when gays and lesbians were engaged in the Stonewall riots in New York City the battle of the Bogside was happening here in Derry.