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Gay Travel in Ireland

Visiting Ireland as a Homosexual - Not Really a Problem


O'Connell Street, Dublin, Ireland
Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

Gay Travel in Ireland - the classic picture of Ireland as a very religious and generally quite conservative country does not bode well for the gay traveller. But - actually there should be no major problem for you. As long as you are as safety-conscious as you would be in any foreign city or country. Generally the best advice would be "Don't flaunt it too much!"

Gay Ireland - A Complicated Story

Despite the high esteem for the poet Oscar Wilde, the actor Mícheál Mac Liammóir or the nationalist Roger Casement, homosexuals and especially gay men were not really Ireland's favourite daughters and sons. In the mid-1970s both the Irish Gay Rights Movement and the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association started their fight against discrimination and for law reform. The Hirschfeld Centre, a community centre for gays in Dublin's Fownes Street, became the focus of activities after its official opening on Saint Patrick's Day 1979. Legal struggles were initiated by David Norris, a Joyce expert, gay rights campaigner and Senator. But only in 1993 was homosexuality finally de-criminalized in Ireland.

Attitudes Towards Homosexuality in Ireland

Ireland today prides itself in being an inclusive, non-discriminatory society. Which essentially means that being gay is not a crime in itself any more and that you may openly follow your sexual orientation. Which does not imply acceptance by all Irish citizens. Homosexuality is still widely regarded as sinful and/or an aberration - even an illness.

On the other hand the gay community has established itself and feels no need to live in hiding any more - for more on Ireland's gay scene see below. But note that this is a fairly recent development and that most openly gay Irish are young. The older generation often preferring to stay in the closet they are used to.

While discrimination against gays is officially frowned upon, it still exists. Open displays of homosexual affection will in many places at least raise eyebrows. And gay men enquiring about a double room may suddenly find the B&B hopelessly overbooked. Openly gay couples may also attract snide, rude, insulting or downright threatening remarks in pubs. Fortunately most aggression stops at the verbal stage.

The Gay Scene in Ireland

Today Ireland has a lively "gay scene", especially in Dublin and Belfast. Some favourite hang-outs like the "George" in Dublin are clearly identifiable by their use of the "rainbow flag", others are far more discreet. The best bet for visitors who want to meet other gay people is to obtain a copy of GCN, the Gay Community News, a monthly magazine with comprehensive listings.

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