Limerick LGBT has a thriving community working together and with other organisations to progress gay rights and culture in the city and county. The highlight of the year is the annual Limerick LGBT Pride festival. For Limerick LGBT who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender this is an amazing occasion as everyone walks with Pride up O’Connell Street accompanied by their loved ones, family and friends as the lovely people of Limerick cheer from the sidelines.

For many of us who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and even Queer, one of the hardest things we may ever have to do in our lives is come out of the closest, you know that time when you tell those you are closest to that you like people of the same sex, or you’ve been born into the wrong body, and hope that they will still see you as that loving person you were up until you told them. For many LGBTQ individuals this part of the process goes well, for others it’s still something that can lead to the loss of family and friends, becoming very traumatic for the individual concerned.

IMGP5525

The other thing that you will do is join in with your first Pride Parade, being part of the week is easy enough, most events are held in places that are either Gay ran, or that are Gay Friendly, offering LGBTQ individuals the comfort of being with like minded people, and the feeling of safety. The Parade it’s self is not so comfortable, here you will walk down the street, blowing whistles and waving flags, you might help carry the huge flag on loan from Dublin, affording you some sense of security if you recognised by someone on the pavement that doesn’t know you’re gay.

Sometimes it helps to know why we have a Parade, aside from the obvious celebration of who we are, and lead up to a day of partying with people like us, our friends and our families. The truth of the matter is Pride Parades/Marches first began all the way over in America, where in 1969, fed up of being rousted by the police, beaten up and arrested a bunch of Gay Men, Butch Lesbians and Drag Queens fought back, quite literally.

The following year a parade/march was held in New York to commemorate the events, and also to seek equal rights for LGBTQ individuals. Freedom to be who you were on the LGBTQ scene was not always accepted and Pride Marches were a way of protesting, and as well as stating that we weren’t going anywhere and we were coming out of hiding.

After the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland in 1993, the doors opened quite literally for LGBTQ individuals to celebrate who they were amongst like minded people, but it wasn’t until 2001 that the first Pride Events took place in our beautiful city of Limerick and from there we really haven’t looked back.

Beginning in 2001, the festival began humbly when community stalwarts Paddy Doyle and Nicole Dunphy organised the first festival of celebration with their events in both Cosmo and Yum Yum Niteclub. Every year since, the festival has grown into what we have come to enjoy today.

Rainbow Support Services became involved in the festival organisation in 2002. This culminated in both the Pride festival and RSS participating among Limerick’s other cultural and sporting organisations in the 2003 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. By 2004, the festival continued upwards, closing off Cecil Street and hosting the first street-party of the festival. The festival opened with a live-music set by Benoit, while an impromptu Pride marched up O’Connell Street with six individuals and a pride flag.

2005 the festival continued on its journey of recognition and celebration organising alternative events from film nights to party nights. All of these led up to the establishment of the first women’s only night in 2006.

The festival began its now-annual Pride Parade in 2007 attracting crowds of several hundred people as we marched down O’Connell Street. This was the first year that Out In UL, the University of Limerick’s LGBT society took part and they put together the first float of the festival. The festival also recognised the International Day Against Homophobia as an important date in its off-season calendar.

The festival began its now-annual Pride Parade in 2007, attracting crowds of several hundred people as we marched down O’Connell Street.

The festival began its now-annual Pride Parade in 2007, attracting crowds of several hundred people as we marched down O’Connell Street. Picture: Eamon McCarthy.

We continued to expand the Limerick LGBT Festival in 2008 when it went mainstream and that was the year Richard Lynch produced the Festival and it made it a week long event. It was also the birth of ILoveLimerick.com as the Festival was called that year to make it an integrative and inclusive for all community groups regardless of their sexual orientation with an emphasis on music, art, theatre and culture. Alternative Miss Ireland Ms. Sheila Fitspatrick. Shelia along with her partner Madonna Lucia became the first Grand Marshals for the Parade and led us down O’Connell Street and back to Leamy House where we tea-danced with Myles Breen. The Parade also included delegations from the leading trade unions and LGBT campaign — Marriage Equality. This was also the first year that the national 300ft Pride Flag was unfurled down O’Connell Street and carried by those who marched.

In 2008 Richard Lynch produced Limerick Pride 2008 and assorted well know Limerick faces such as Leanne Moore and Myles Breen gathered to show their support. Photo by Cormac Byrne

In 2008 assorted well know Limerick faces such as Leanne Moore and Myles Breen gathered to show their support. Photo by Cormac Byrne.

2009 was another special landmark year as the bridges on the approach to the city raised the Pride flag over the river Shannon with the support of Limerick City Council. On a more solemn note, the first Remembrance Service took place recognising those who have gone before and their contributions to the lives we now live.

In 2010 the festival continued its growth, receiving letters of support from Her Excellency President Mary McAleese and Senator David Norris. Eurovision starlet Niamh Kavanagh took to the stage at Dolans and entertained the crowds with a fantastic show.

In 2011 we celebrated a Decade of Pride in Limerick and OUTinUL organised a ‘Love Diversity’ Mural on the Post Office Lane wall. In 2012, Pride won a Gala award for Best National Pride event.

In 2013 everyone wore pink in honour of Marriage Equality and it was amazing to see a sea of pink move up O Connell Street.

A sea of pink for Marriage Equality at the Limerick Pride Parade 2013. Richard pictured with Sheila Fitspatrick, Hugo Dahn, Miss Limerick Shauna Lindsay, Chole Heslin, the Limerick Rose and Madonna Lucia. Picture: Dolf Patijn

A sea of pink for Marriage Equality at the Limerick Pride Parade 2013. Richard pictured with Sheila Fitspatrick, Hugo Dahn, Miss Limerick Shauna Lindsay, Chole Heslin, the Limerick Rose and Madonna Lucia. Picture: Dolf Patijn

2014 was the first year the Pride flag was flown at the Limerick Garda station and this caused a little controversy in the national media.

In 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to pass same sex marriage based on a public vote. The referendum marked a dramatic social shift in a traditionally Catholic country that only decriminalised homosexuality two decades ago. After one of the largest turnouts in a referendum there, 62 percent of voters said ‘Yes’. It is a social revolution and it’s very clear that this referendum is not only an affirmation of the views of young people but of the country.

2001

The beginning of Pride in Limerick City with Cosmos and Yum Yums

2002

Rainbow Support Services became involved with organising a weekend of
events.

2003

Pride became part of this year’s St. Patricks Day Parade – Not
officially a pride year.

2004

First Street Party based on Cecil Street.

Red Ribbon joined Pride.

First Parade, consisting of six individuals walking up O’Connell
Street with a flag.

2005

Films, Party Nights and Competitions became part of the celebrations.

2006

First Women’s Only Night was held this year.

2007

First Official Pride March.

First Float, OUT in UL’s ‘Half Door Measures.’

University of Limerick Students Union Marched behind their banner,
helped by the late Paddy McHugh.

Art Exhibition in the Belltable.

2008

The birth of ILoveLimerick.com, as Limerick Pride was called that year.

First Official Pride Festival Week with Music, Arts, Theatre and Cultural Events.

First multicultural and integrative Pride Parade.

First Parade Grand Marshall’s Sheila Fitspatrick & Madonna Lucia

First Pridefest Block Party after Pride Parade.

First Saturday Night Climax Party at Dolans with Leanne Moore performing.

First Mr. Gay Limerick.

First year we had the 300ft Pride Flag.

First year with official Pride sponsors.

2009

Pride Flags flying high from all the bridges.

First Remembrance Service.

First Géilí held.

2010

National Helpline Float was welcomed to our Parade.

Letters of support received from Senator David Norris and the then President Mary Robinson.

Niamh Kavanagh performed at Dolans.

2011

Five Years of Official Pride Parades.

A Decade of Pride Events and Pride Related Events.

OUTinUL organised the ‘Love Diversity’ Mural on the Post Office Lane
wall.

2012

Sports Day at the Peoples Park.

Family Day with after party in marquee at Hunt Museum.

2013

#Pink Parade for Marriage Equality.

‘Best Practice Guidelines in working with Transgender Patients and their Families’ in conjunction with Teni.

        2014  Pride flag flown at Limerick Garda Station