Head of Defence Forces to walk in Dublin Pride Parade

Soldiers in uniform will also participate in the LGBT event

Sgt Richard Muldarry after  receiving his Defence Forces Values Champions Award, with his husband, Levino de Oliveira, at The Curragh Camp, Co Kildare.

Sgt Richard Muldarry after receiving his Defence Forces Values Champions Award, with his husband, Levino de Oliveira, at The Curragh Camp, Co Kildare.

a
 

Members of the Defence Forces are to participate, for the first time in uniform, in Saturday’s Dublin Pride LGBT parade.

In a public gesture of support, chief of staff of the Defence Forces Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett and assistant chief of staff Brig-Gen O’Halloran will join the parade and walk with participating members of the forces.

A Defence Forces source said the involvement of the chief of staff and one of his most senior lieutenants was “very much in line with our values of [supporting] moral courage and respect”. About 100 personnel are expected to parade in uniform, along with 49 military band members, also in uniform.

The Dublin Pride event starts in St Stephen’s Green at about noon with music and speeches, with the parade proper leaving at 2pm and proceeding along Cuff Street, Kevin Street, Patrick Street, High Street, Church Street, North King Street and ending in Smithfield market.

The parade is expected to be particularly exuberant this year, coming as it does in the 25th anniversary year of the decriminalisation of homosexuality and following Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s apology on behalf of the State in the Dáil earlier this month, together with his commitment to expunge the criminal convictions of gay men prosecuted before homosexuality was decriminalised in 1993.

High point

For Sgt Richard Muldarry, military participation in the Dublin Pride Parade marks a personal high point. It would not be happening, he says, were it not for “progressive management” in the Defence Forces.

Sgt Muldarry is a barrack personnel support service officer at Custume Barracks in Athlone. He has been in the Defence Forces for 19 years and in May received the award for moral courage in the inaugural Defence Forces Values Champions Award.

It was given to him in recognition of the work of Defend With Pride, a support network for gay members of the Defence Forces and others in the military who need advice and support on LGBT matters, which Sgt Muldarry founded with other Defence Forces members in 2014.

He himself came out in 2004.

Dark secret

“I hit my peak of not feeling great about myself,” he says. “I had had girlfriends but at the same time, I had this dark secret inside that was destroying me.”

He told family and close friends first, and then his wider circle in the Defence Forces.

“I was incredibly lucky,” he says. “I didn’t change – I was the same person I was before I came out.”

He says the Defence Forces were “completely supportive” of him and he sees himself as a better soldier and person since.

“I was able to excel fully as an individual and my work grew. Beforehand, I would have been insecure. I gained a lot of respect and I got promoted afterwards as my career has progressed.”

Defend With Pride offers advice and support to members of the forces who are gay and open about it, and to others who are perhaps concerned about coming out.

There is support also for members who have an issue at home, outside the Defence Forces, but which is impacting on them while serving.

‘Allied’

Consequently, Sgt Muldarry and his colleagues refer to their group as LGBTA – the “A” standing for “allied”, denoting family and friends.

“A lot of soldiers have a gay brother or sister and don’t know where to turn. We are there for them as part of the Defence Forces family.”

Sgt Muldarry says the message to anyone anxious about the subject is: “Ask those questions and get the direction and support you need.”

He says formal participation by the forces in the Pride parade will send a big signal to wider society.

“It’s going to show to everyone that we are a diverse organisation and that it is okay to be in the Defence Forces if you are gay, that if we are accepting and you are gay, you should accept yourself as well.”

Personal happiness

Accepting himself for who he is has brought Sgt Muldarry a large measure of personal happiness. In Dublin in 2013, he met Levino de Oliveira who is from Brazil originally.

“I fell for him instantly,” says Sgt Muldarry, “hoping he was gay and, thankfully, he was.”

The pair married in 2015 and live in Mullingar.

On Saturday, supported by de Oliveira, Sgt Muldarry will walk with pride and he says, “in solidarity with each other, our colleagues, our family and our friends to show Ireland and the world that the Irish Defence Forces truly is a diverse and accepting organisation”.

a