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.
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 its 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, wherein 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 first Pride night was held in Limerick, when community stalwarts Paddy Doyle and Nicole Dunphy organised the first night of celebration with their events in both Cosmo and Yum Yum Niteclub.
Rainbow Support Services became involved in Pride in 2002.
This culminated in the Limerick LGBT community marching with other cultural and sporting organisations in the 2003 St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
By 2004, Pride continued upwards, closing off Cecil Street and hosting the first street-party. The event opened with a live music set by Benoit, with an impromptu Pride march up O’Connell Street with six individuals and a pride flag.
2005 continued Pride 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.
Pride began its now-annual Pride Parade in 2007, with the first ever Pride Parade attracting crowds of several hundred people marching 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.
We continued to expand the Limerick LGBT Festival in 2008 when we held our first Pride Festival. That year Pride went mainstream and 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.
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.
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.
In 2016, the theme of this year’s festival was #UnitedColoursofLimerick and the Parade was led by Broden Giambrone, the chief executive of Transgender Equality Network Ireland. Broden brought many friends from Dublin and after the Parade made an inspirational speech at PrideFest 2016, a showcase of local LGBT culture, held in a beautiful marquee on the grounds of the Hunt Museum.
In 2017, the focus of Limerick LGBTI Pride 2017 was the youth with inspirational young people taking pride of place in the celebrations. The Limerick LGBTI Pride 2017 Grand Marshals were the incredible young people who form the Youth Advisory Panel on the LGBTI Youth Strategy. This strategy is the first of its kind in the world focusing on the needs of LGBT young people in Ireland. The young people came from all over Ireland to represent the youth strategy team. Seven members of the group travelled to Limerick to take part in the LGBTI Pride Parade as Grand Marshals.
Limerick city turned into a sea of rainbow colors for the Limerick Pride Parade 2018. The theme for this year is “We are Pride”, celebrating the people who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes over the years to make Pride happen for Limerick.
All of the participants gathered at Limerick City Hall to get ready to walk with pride up O’Connell Street with Richard Lynch, founder of ilovelimerick and the Grand Marshall for the Limerick Pride Parade 2018 leading the way.
Limerick Pride 2019 took place on Saturday, July 13, 2019 and was proved to be Limerick’s biggest Pride parade ever! Thousands of people of all ages lined the streets for Limerick’s most splendid and colourful day celebrating lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender culture. People travelled as far as the USA to celebrate this year’s Festival which marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York and the birth of the LGBT Pride movement.
This year’s Grand Marshall was Moninne Griffith, Executive Director of BeLonG To Youth Services, a national organisation supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI+) young people in Ireland.
Limerick Pride 2020 was unfortunately unable to physically happen because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but instead, the festival went virtual and held online from Monday, July 6 until Sunday, July 12 with a virtual Parade taking place on Saturday, July 11 and was a huge success. The theme this year was #spiritofpride and the Grand Marshall was Senator David Norris.