Inside SLM |

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Inside SLM

As Dublin Pride prepares to celebrate 50 years since the first Sexual Liberation Movement demonstration for Homosexual Law Reform in 1974, Ethan Moser continues his series highlighting the founding members of the SLM.

The Irish SLM celebrated its Golden Anniversary last year, with the movement being founded in October of 1973 by ten revolutionary queer students on the campus of Trinity College Dublin. Amongst their ranks were figures like Ruth Riddick, Mary Dorcey, Margaret McWilliams, Irene Brady, Michael Kerrigan, Hugo McManus, Peter Bradley, Edmund Lynch, and future Senator, David Norris. Rounding out the group was the late Gerry McNamara.

While most of the students who co-founded the Sexual Liberation Movement were enrolled at Trinity, where the group’s first meeting was held, McNamara was actually a Drama and Literature student at University College Dublin.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Bill Hughes, a gay Irish radio presenter and television producer, fondly remembered McNamara’s presence on campus.

“I came to college to UCD. There were dark days. I was pretty much out to most people. But most people didn’t really understand it or believe it at that time, because it was kind of a new thing.

“There was a fantastic character called Gerry McNamara… In UCD, Gerry was a fantastic English student. He would march through the corridors of Belfield in a blue velvet cape, and everybody was, ‘Darling’, and ‘Are we going down to the Dram Soc?’,” said Hughes before adding: “I remember thinking - ‘Okay, I’m gay, but I’m not that gay’.”

McNamara was obviously a boisterous and colourful character in his youth, however, his dedication to literature earned him a great deal of respect in Irish literary circles, with RTÉ producer David Blake Knox calling McNamara a “brilliant comedy writer” as well as “someone with highly sophisticated literary tastes.”

Prior to his passing, McNamara worked with Knox on the RTÉ series, Nighthawks, which aired from 1988 to 1992. After the show’s first season, McNamara was appointed as the chief writer and script editor. Unfortunately, Nighthawks was one of McNamara’s last creative ventures before his passing.

In the introduction to his 2018 book, Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know: The Fathers of Yeats, Joyce, and Wilde, acclaimed Irish author Colm Tóibín remembers seeing the film Amacord in the Academy Cinema with McNamara in 1975. He similarly laments McNamara’s death, which came as the result of AIDS-related illnesses in the 1990s.

Tóibín’s single haunting comment relating to his friend’s passing was: “Gerry is more than 20 years dead now.”

While the comment might seem flippant to some, it reminds others of all that McNamara could have accomplished for the LGBTQ+ community had his tragic passing not cut his journey short.

Unfortunately, there is far less information on McNamara than there is on his other SLM co-founders. McNamara passed away while still relatively young, and aside from his work on programmes like Nighthawks and his legacy with Irish writers like Colm Tóibín, very few details about McNamara survived into the age of the internet.

Within the SLM sphere, McNamara is often the subject of less focus than his more renowned cohorts like Edmund Lynch and David Norris. Regardless, McNamara’s contribution to the founding of SLM and the fight for LGBTQ+ equality, including the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland, cannot be understated, especially for those of us who, unlike Bill Hughes, really are that gay.

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