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In Memory of Jon Hanna

How can I distil down into words who Jon Hanna was, and what he was, to so many people? Jon loved language, linguistics and etymology, but Jon knew that words were about communication, which was more important than anything else. There’s a phrase that Jon often used when someone would tell him something upsetting, after some silence - because he knew the power of silence - he would then say; “Well, fuck!”

Jon was third of four children, his hometown was Kilkeel in Co Down, where he learned to be careful which side of the road he walked, how he talked and how to sleep through pipe bombs. Jon grew up in a time before the Good Friday agreement, during the Troubles. He saw communities torn apart, and knew what it was to live with injustice. Jon’s mother was a wonderful woman who had her own struggles but she always encouraged Jon to read.

And then, as his godmother put it - he ran away from home when he was 17 and got himself into college. Jon attended UCD; he was the outspoken and ‘out’ bisexual auditor of the Gay and Lesbian society (which changed its name since then). It was there he met Celine, the wonderful person who shared his sense of social justice, his spirituality, and with whom he had four wonderful children. Sadhbh, Jason, Ciel and Fiach.

Jon is one of those annoyingly successful people who never got their degree. Formal education was too slow for Jon. He was skilled at what he called Hackcraft; being an ethical hacker and coder. This was recognised with him receiving many industry accolades, including several from Microsoft, for his contributions.

There are many people who said they first met Jon, or only knew Jon, through the internet. We met and spent a lot of time in similar online communities; be it the An Fáinne pagan mailing list, or Boards.ie. It was through the friendships that grew up around us on Boards.ie that Jon met Joanna.

Jon and Joanna’s love reaches out beyond their sons Oisín and Ruadhán. Their home was a welcoming place. It always made me smile to see the small loving interactions between the two of them. Even if it was them being in separate rooms rolling their eyes at each other, at the same time!

Jon was someone who anyone could talk to about all aspects of life. Jon was fellow warrior. He would often say, “there are wartime people, and peacetime people”. We discussed at length what it is to be a warrior in modern society, what fighting battles looked like, putting yourself and your body in harm’s way for the sake of others. Much of his part in the run up to the referendum was doing just that, with Radical Queers Resist.

Jon was a warrior who upheld and embodied the ideals of the communities he defend by being an out pagan, witch and bisexual. If someone had an issue with that, Jon made it clear it was their issue, and by so doing, he made other people feel like they could stand a little taller, they could be a little more who they are.

Speaking honestly about what he struggled with was what Jon did, but it requires a content notice. Self care - when we live in a society that insists you should not be you, and does not value you - is a radical act of resistance.

Jon Hanna suffered from, and struggled with, depression. Jon was also a rape survivor, and lived with disordered eating. There were times when we would see him getting too thin, and we would try feed him up. The cost of his happiness and being who he was, loudly, was the impact that it had on his sense of self value.

This was a battle that many did not get to see Jon fight and the one he ultimately lost.

Jon’s pro-choice activism began with the X case in 1992, continued within Student Union activism; when it was still taboo to be pro-choice in Ireland, he was stridently so. It was a joy for him to see the pro-choice movement in Ireland grow, seeing Parents for Choice form and for Ireland to have repealed the eighth.

Jon was involved with Mara Klein Clarke’s organisation, the Abortion Support Network. For Jon was one who believed that unjust laws should be broken. Jon was also a coordinator with Bi+ Ireland, a supportive community which he would have loved to have existed in his youth.

“No one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away...until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone’s life...is only the core of their actual existence” - Terry Pratchett.

The crop that Jon Hanna sowed in being uncompromisingly and unapologetically himself, you see in every time someone feels they can put on a badge, or be a support for their communities. That is the effect that Jon has had. He would ask that you all look after each other and yourselves and if you can, do the work that still needs to be done, in his name.

For “A man is not dead while his name is still spoken”.

Jon Hanna, Jon Hanna, Jon Hanna.

This article appears in the 352 Issue of GCN

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This article appears in the 352 Issue of GCN