Peter Bradley, though perhaps lesser known than the likes of Edmund Lynch and David Norris, joined a group of nine other young students on Trinity College’s campus in 1973 to organise the country’s first Sexual Liberation Movement.
Bradley described his life leading up to this moment in a 2021 interview with Edmund as part of the late-historian’s LGBTI+ Oral History Project.
After graduating from UCD, Bradley traveled to London on a gap-year trip before starting a Master’s in Education programme at Trinity College. Once in London, Bradley joined the South London Gay Liberation Front with fellow- SLM co-founder, Michael Kerrigan.
“I went on the rampage, to be honest, in London,” Bradley told Lynch. “And had an amazing year in the South London Gay Liberation Front. It was like [the] opening of a door I never suspected into a huge world.
“At the time, it was women’s liberation, Black liberation, and gay liberation. And the gay liberation borrowed the achievements of women’s liberation and Black liberation. So gay liberation, for me, blew my mind. It was the classic thing: the personal is political. The politics is not something out there that you vote on once every five years. Who I am, who I love, what I do, the language I use - that is political and revolutionary.”
After his gap year, Bradley and Kerrigan returned to Dublin just in time to join forces with Lynch and the likes of Ruth Riddick, Mary Dorcey, Margaret McWilliams, Irene Brady, Gerry McNamara, Hugo McManus, and David Norris on the campus of Trinity College Dublin.
“When I came to Trinity in autumn of ’73, I was fizzing with energy and a feeling of a gay identity,” said Bradley. “We know the act of homo-sex doesn’t say anything about identity. How many married men, married women have sex with their own gender? What was different with gay liberation was that the sex we [had] was integrated into our personality, and instead of being hidden, it was open. So my poor parents got the brunt of me wearing gay badges and friends had to hear my coming-out stories. So that’s who I was when I came to Trinity. The Master’s in Education never got finished, because I spent a year rattling around politics.”
In the autumn of 1973, Bradley attended the first ever SLM meeting. “What a galaxy of people there were. Ruth Riddick – not gay at all – she was interested in women’s rights and abortion reform. David Norris. There was a phalanx from the Legion of Mary, they were hilarious, because they came in determined to fight the evil of homosexuality. They were all gay of course, but the strict Legion of Mary line [was] about how loathsome and vile [homosexuality was], and they were going to persuade us all of the true church line on the matter. The only one I remember is Terry Stewart, who is still around. They were fearsome. And then there was Edmund Lynch, a stalwart from the beginning.”
Bradley continued: “The first gay meeting in the Republic of Ireland was the symposium we ran in the Junior Common Room in Trinity College in February 1974. It was so important. A whole group of us worked so hard. As a postgraduate member of the college, I was able to book the Junior Common Room without charge, and was able to book the room for the disco. It was a huge joint effort.
“The symposium was all about profile, but it was about education [and] possibilities of reform. It wasn’t a mad liberation – and I say ‘mad’ because often we were mad. SLM did the first open gay conference in Ireland, because even the Coleraine one, which they say is the first, was called something like ‘Sexual Reform Event’. The symposium clearly was, and was known by everyone as, a lesbian, gay event.”
Since helping to establish SLM, Bradley has served as the secretary of the London Gay Teachers Group and has co-authored two books of poetry with Nigel Young and Colm Clifford. Bradley similarly established the organisation known as Brixton Faeries, a gay community theatre that produced shows from 1974 until the mid-1980’s.