Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride Festival to mark 50 years of sexual liberation

The 40th anniversary Dublin Pride Parade takes place on Saturday, June 24th

The sun is out on the streets of Dublin which can only mean two things: 1) climate heating is once again causing unusually hot and consistent weather for an Irish summer; and 2) Pride Month has arrived.

Dublin Pride launched its calendar of events for LGBTQ+ people and allies on Thursday evening in Dublin’s City Hall, with the 40th anniversary Dublin Pride Parade taking place on Saturday, June 24th.

This year also marks a number of anniversaries of events pivotal to the LGBTQ+ community. Among the anniversaries are four that stick out in the hearts of everyone, from the emerging teenager still figuring out their sexuality to the activists who have dedicated their lives to gain equal rights.

50 years of sexual liberation

In October of 1973, a small but dedicated group of 10 people met at Trinity College Dublin to form the Sexual Liberation Movement, discussing everything from feminism to racism, and art to colonialism.


According to a blog from one of the founding members, the group comprised of Ruth Riddick, Mary Dorcey, Margaret McWilliams, Irene Brady, Michael Kerrigan, Gerry McNamara, Hugo McManus, Peter Bradley, Edmund Lynch and the now Senator David Norris.

The following summer saw what may have been Ireland’s first demonstration demanding the abolition of the draconian homosexuality laws at the time. Though small in number, their protest outside the Department of Justice on June 24th, 1973, had a marked impact, and as streets are set to come alive once again this summer after five decades of protest and celebration, that same sense of pride remains.

March to Fairview: 40 years on

In September 1982, 31-year-old Declan Flynn was killed in Fairview Park on Dublin’s north side by four teenagers, between the ages of 14 and 19 years old. They later admitted having gone “queer bashing” at the time, but after the attackers were given suspended sentences, it sparked outrage in the gay community and its allies.

Hundreds marched from Liberty Hall to Fairview Park on Saturday, March 19th, 1983, in what was the first large-scale protest demanding change for the persecuted gay community in Ireland.

In 2018, Dublin Pride held a memorial in Fairview Park near the location of Flynn’s murder, with veteran activists speaking of the bravery in organising such a huge protest in the early 1980s. With 2023 marking 40 years since the milestone March to Fairview, expect some commemoration among Dublin Pride’s catalogue of events this month.

Four decades of Pride

Just a few months after Flynn’s killers’ sentencing caused the biggest protest that Ireland’s gay community had seen, the first Dublin Pride parade was held in June 1983. Although eclipsed by the numbers at the Fairview protest, the National Lesbian and Gay Federation began what would become one of the most celebrated events on the streets of Dublin: always keen to celebrate queer identity, but never losing sight of its revolutionary and inclusive origins.

30 years since decriminalisation

June 24th will also be 30 years since the State officially decriminalised homosexuality, when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the draconian laws contravened the Convention on Human Rights. It took a 16-year legal battle from Senator David Norris and others to achieve, but when the case was finally won, generations of gay people could rest without fear of prosecution – by the State anyway.

25 years later, the then minister for justice Charlie Flanagan apologised for those who were hurt, isolated, criminally convicted and forced to conduct their private lives in secret by the “Victorian-era” laws in the past.

“These laws caused immeasurable harm,” he told the Seanad, where an all-party motion acknowledged the harm done by criminalisation. “Nothing that can be said here today can undo the unjust suffering and discrimination that the homosexual community experienced in the years prior to decriminalisation.”

This year, Dublin Pride has said although huge progress has been made in the past 50 years, its march goes on. On its website, the organisation said: “Ireland ranks worst in the EU for Trans healthcare, the ILGA Rainbow map only ranks us the 16th best place in Europe to be LGBTQ+, many children of LGBTQ+ parents are left without protection and legal recognition and violence against LGBTQ+ people has increased in recent years. Outside of Ireland, 67 countries still criminalise homosexuality, in 11 countries it is subject to the death penalty and in many countries, we have seen a recent rollback in our rights and safety.”

“Marching at Pride is one of the most effective things any individual can do to protect and advance LGBTQ+ rights.”

Dublin Pride programme: From brunch at Bewley’s to day at Dalymount Park

The main section of the Dublin Pride Festival runs from June 19th to 25th. Its popular parade is planned for Saturday, June 24th.

Events will include a specially-created Pride Tour of the GPO Museum focusing on LGBTQ+ rebels of the 1916 Rising and beyond; four days of Pride-related events at Moore Street market from June 21st to 24th; a Pride brunch at Bewley’s and Pride at the Dogs at Shelbourne Park on the Saturday of the festival and a service at Dublin Unitarian Church on the Sunday.

Jamie Kenny, executive director of Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride Festival explained that this year the festival is centred around the pioneers who led the way to when marriage equality was legalised.

“It is so important not to forget the pioneers of homosexual rights in Ireland. There are so many new communities in Ireland such as Ukrainian Action Ireland who have gotten involved but we still need to encourage young people to get involved,” explained Mr Kenny.

“There is a whole month of activities and events for LGBTQ+ people and our allies with highlights including the Pride Parade and March, the Pride Village at Merrion Square and the Mother Pride Bloq Party.”

Some of the other events taking place throughout the month, outside the main festival week, include the Wet & Wild Kayak Club colour paddle on the river Liffey through to the middle of the city this Saturday, June 3rd.

On June 10th, Dalymount Park is the place to go for football lovers as the Pride of Dalymount Cup gets underway. Bohs XI play Dublin Devils XI in a celebration of football, highlighting the recent announcement of a partnership that reaffirms both clubs’ position as being LGBTQ+ inclusive. The game is preceded by Bohs v Cork (WNL), followed by the Champions League Final.

On June 16th, on Acres Road in the Phoenix Park, the Dublin Pride 5K Run will be held. All funds raised go to LGBTQ+ charities such as HIV Ireland, Trans Equality Together and ShoutOut.

The festivities were launched by Lord Mayor of Dublin Caroline Conroy on Thursday evening.

Minister for Culture Catherine Martin, whose department allocated funding of €54,000 to the festival’s cultural programme, said: “I would encourage all to come along, enjoy the experience and to support the progress towards a more fair and inclusive society.”

Cultural events will include Pride Hub on Duke Street, which will include a performance space and the 50.40.30 exhibition, charting the history of Pride and the Irish LGBTQ+ community. Pride Poets will host poetry evenings, and the post parade Pride Village event in Merrion Square will be a free day-long music festival style event.

More information can be found on dublinpride.ie.