Dublin in the late 1970s had a secret gay scene, based on the local coffee shops and pubs, explains Liam Collins.
There was an underground scene comprised of married men, priests and prominent public figures who lived in constant fear of being ‘outed’.
The more obvious gay scene was centred around the theatre and RTE, which was known by some in both the gay and political communities as ‘Fairyhouse’. Bartley Dunne’s pub, along with Rice’s and Tobin’s nearby, formed a triangle of ‘gay-friendly’ pubs before the term was widely in use. None of them were strictly gay and they liked to keep an eclectic clientele so that prominent figures in the legal profession, actors and the like would not stand out as being obviously homosexual at a time when it was illegal.
The response by the authorities to the murder of a gay man called Charles Self “was to round up 1,500 known gay men and build a data bank of fingerprints and photographs and ask who they slept with and for their partners’ names,” according to Brian Merriman, director of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network. “This action traumatised and destroyed many lives.”
The Garda file notes: “Many of his friends and acquaintances can best be described as an arty set with different attitudes and behaviour patterns from that of ordinary and conventional members of society.”
in 1993, homosexuality in the Republic was decriminalised by the Minister for Justice Maire Geoghegan-Quinn after a successful legal challenge by David Norris, who is now a Senator.