Hundreds gather in Dublin to remember Declan Flynn 40 years after his death

The 31-year-old man’s murder in 1982 in Fairview Park galvanised the gay rights movement in Ireland

Declan Flynn was remembered 40 years to the day after his murder galvanised the gay rights movement in Ireland.

Mr Flynn (31) was beaten to death in Fairview Park on September 9th, 1982, and his body was found the following morning.

Five teenagers were later charged with his murder but were given suspended sentences by the judge Mr Justice Seán Gannon. They had admitted to “queer bashing”, as it was called at the time of gay men who met in Fairview Park.

Mr Justice Gannon allowed the five to walk free from the Central Criminal Court, saying there was “no element of correction required” as they had “come from good homes and have experienced care and affection”.


“While I must demonstrate the abhorrence of the community by imposing sentences, I don’t think it necessary to be served immediately by detention,” said Mr Justice Gannon, who died in 2011.

The ruling caused public outrage and led to one of the earliest and largest demonstrations in support of gay rights on the streets of Dublin.

Hundreds of people gathered in Fairview Park to remember Mr Flynn on the 40th anniversary of his death. His younger brother Paul said the cruelty of his death was compounded by the sentence handed out to Declan’s killers by the judge.

“His killers took their release as a vindication by the State for his killing and held a victory march shortly after. This added to the pain already inflicted on our family and Declan’s friends.”

Mr Flynn described his brother’s “gentle nature in sharp contrast to the brutality that abruptly ended his life”. Mr Justice Gannon had “disgraced himself and the legal system of the day”.

Declan’s oldest brother Christopher said the fact that so many people within the gay and lesbian community remembered him was a great comfort to the family.

“It’s a great comfort to me personally. It’s 40 years, it could be a week ago. He was a kind person. He had a speech impediment, but at the very bottom of his soul he was kindness itself.”

Many speakers recalled the dark days of 1982 when many people in society thought “queer bashing” was an acceptable activity when homosexuality was still regarded as a crime.

Veteran gay rights activist Bill Foley said he knew Mr Flynn slightly and described him as a kind person who was always looking out for others.

“To go through that experience through the spotlight of the media must have added an extra layer of horror to the experience for the family,” he said.

Mr Foley said the victory march carried out by the perpetrators and their supporters turned Mr Flynn’s death into a “political event; we need to capture the anger and the frustration that was going on in the community and to turn it into positive, affirmative action.

“Our philosophy was for everybody to come out personally and politically and to make alliances with other groups that were discriminated against, such as the women’s movement. We were very involved in the anti-amendment campaign in 1983.”

Mr Foley said Dublin pride marches before 1983 were “very small; it felt like less than 100 people”, but it galvanised people and the pride marches got bigger as a result of it.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times