Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, speaking at the opening of the Pathfinders Exhibition
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Tá an-áthas orm a bheith anseo, i dtimpeallacht stairiúil Chaisleáin Bhaile Átha Cliath, chun an taispeántas iontach seo a sheoladh anocht.
Thanks to Paul, to Mary Heffernan and Angela Cassidy here in Dublin Castle, Martha Whyte of Outhouse Community Centre and indeed everyone involved for the wonderful and warm welcome.
The year 2019 has seen a number of anniversaries of significance in either an Irish or world context, and in some cases both. We have celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first Dáil sitting and just a few short weeks ago, the 50th anniversary of man setting foot on the moon.
Another significant event of 50 years ago which still resonates to this day in Ireland, did not take place within our shores, but was a significant milestone towards the equality that we enjoy today. The Stonewall riots in New York half a century ago were a watershed moment in the advancement of LGBTQI rights worldwide.
Unfortunately it would take almost another 25 years before the ripple effect arrived in Ireland. It is hard to imagine that it is barely quarter of a century since homosexuality was finally decriminalised. And clearly that did not happen by chance.
We can openly celebrate its significance today here in Ireland, all that has been achieved and all that has changed, culminating with the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution allowing marriage between two people without distinction as to their gender.
It is only proper that we should celebrate the older men and women, who despite their best efforts over many years, carried forward a sadness about how they should have been accepted as equal citizens, but weren’t.
Paul will certainly attest to this struggle as will activist Ailbhe Smyth. Ailbhe, when paying tribute to the activists in those days described them as “radical, raucous, outrageous and resolutely undaunted by sacred cows” I think that sums them up perfectly.
The ‘Pathfinders’ Archive is a signature photographic record of the older LGBTQI members on the island of Ireland including Northern Ireland, who for decades fought the good fight, often under fear of persecution or prosecution, paving the way for the freedoms that we enjoy today.
With this exhibition Paul has stated that he aims to give a visibilty and recognition to those pioneers and their valuable contribution, with Pathfinders as a testimony to their achievements. Looking around me here tonight, Paul, you have more than achieved that aim!!
As I said when opening “Rainbow Revolution” at the National Museum at the end of June, exhibitions such as we are launching here today are not about shining a light on a tipping point moment, but about celebrating and marking the journey to that moment.
I’m delighted that some of the Cultural Institutions under the remit of my Department are playing their part in celebrating LGBTQI rights. The aforementioned “Rainbow Revolution” exhibition was opened to celebrate Pride month but it will run for the coming year.
This year has also seen LGBT Tours in the National Gallery of Ireland and in Kilmainham Gaol. The Fund It campaign which helped to stage this event is an initiative of Business to Arts, which has been funded by my Department in the past.
The National Library holds the Irish Queer Archive, and the National Museum will focus on starting an Oral History Project, interviewing a range of people to record a comprehensive history of the LGBTQI movement in Ireland. Indeed if you feel that you have any objects or archives that could enhance and enrich the story, please contact the National Museum or Library. It is truly a story worth telling and we want to fully do it justice.
I wish Paul and all of the team the very best for this standout event. Some of you may have been present when I launched this year’s International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival Programme last April and I quoted prominent San Francisco activist Harvey Milk.
I feel that quote is worth repeating. He said:
“It takes no compromise to give people their rights…it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression”
Thankfully he lived to see much of the post Stonewall change in the early 1970’s before being cruelly taken by an assassin’s bullet in 1978. I can’t help but ask myself what he would make of how far LGBTQI rights have come. It would make for an interesting discussion.
I wish Paul and all of the team the very best over the coming months for this standout event.