Darragh Gallagher and Daniel Meier
Darragh and Daniel each had a strong connection with the Hebridean island of Iona, having both spent time living and working in the ecumenical Christian community over many years.
But it wasn’t until 2011 that they finally met there.
Daniel, a Swiss theologian, had been working for two years as the sacristan at Iona Abbey when Belfast-born Darragh arrived and took up the position of housekeeper in the MacLeod Centre.
“We were both attracted to the community life on Iona,” says Darragh.
“My interest was in the history and archaeology while Daniel’s was about expressing Christian faith in a contemporary context.
"He had been a pastoral assistant in the Swiss Catholic Church – a job that doesn't really exist outside Switzerland. He's not ordained, so couldn't do all the work of a priest, but he led services and helped organise the daily life of a Catholic parish."
After five weeks of getting to know each other as friends, Darragh returned to London where he was studying for an MA in fine art at Wimbledon College. The men kept in touch and the following year, when Darragh took a teaching position in Sussex, Daniel joined him.
They moved to Switzerland in 2013 where Darragh now teaches at the International School of Basel and Daniel is responsible for youth work in their local parish of Münchenstein.
After an engagement atop Iona’s highest point – Dùn I – Daniel and Darragh entered a civil partnership in Thun, Switzerland, on September 16th, 2016.
Loved ones from Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, Mexico and America joined the men the next day in Ralligen, a 16th century castle overlooking Lake Thunersee, for an Indian meal, Irish and Swiss music played by the Ackermann family, and the release of 60 red balloons – one by each guest – with notes of love attached for the couple.
Last October, celebrations continued with a church celebration of “Friendships and Loving Relationships” – led by close friend Rev Caroline Currer – in Iona Abbey followed by a week’s “idyllic” honeymoon on the island where it all began.