NIGRA Wishes Everyone a Merry Gay Christmas


The members and followers of NIGRA wish everyone a wonderful, and safe Christmas.  Be safe, and remember to look after others when you can.

Gay adoption: Northern Ireland ban lifted

BBC News : Gay adoption ruling from Supreme Court

A ban on gay and unmarried couples applying to adopt children in Northern Ireland has been removed.

They may now apply in the same way as heterosexual couples.

Health Minister Edwin Poots had tried to challenge an appeal court decision to extend adoption rights to gay couples.

However, the Supreme Court said the Department of Health’s argument for appeal did not meet the criteria.

Previously, a single gay or lesbian person could adopt children in Northern Ireland, but a couple in a civil partnership could not.

In June, the Court of Appeal ruled that the ban based on relationship status was held to discriminate against those in civil partnerships and to breach their human rights.

Northern Ireland was the only part of the United Kingdom where that policy existed.

Now, the law in Northern Ireland is in line with the rest of the UK.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Following the Court of Appeal judgement in June 2013, unmarried couples, including same sex couples, and those in a civil partnership may apply to adopt.

“The final decision regarding the granting of an adoption order will lie with the court.”


Further reading and links:

  1. BBC News

Northern Ireland's LGBT Community Disenfranchised Again

We need to see delivery from Office of First Minster and Deputy First Minister (OFMdFM) – Nesbitt
Ulster Unionist Party leader, Mike Nesbitt MLA, has called for delivery from OFMdFM on the Sexual Orientation Strategy.

Mr Nesbitt, who is also Chair of the OFMdFM Committee, said:“The Sexual Orientation Strategy is becoming one of the longest running sagas of devolution. We have been waiting seven years for a strategy to be produced, following the consultation process of 2006.

“The Assembly was given a commitment by then Junior Minister Robin Newton in 2010 that a strategy was imminent. Then last year Junior Minister Jonathan Bell said we would see the strategy by the end of 2012; again, it didn’t appear. Then in Together: Building a United Community a commitment was given to publishing a sexual orientation strategy before the end of 2013, and lo and behold it hasn’t appeared.

“So where is it? It’s a Programme for Government commitment and after seven years, it’s non-appearance is also conclusive proof of the dysfunctionality of the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.
“The purpose of the strategy is to address issues faced by the LGBT community in Northern Ireland, so it is a very important document. Is it now going to become a yearly event where we mark the non-publication of the Sexual Orientation Strategy? If it weren’t so serious, this debacle would be laughable.

“If OFMdFM are serious about building a shared future in Northern Ireland, publishing the sexual orientation strategy would send out a strong message. We need to see delivery on this; it cannot and should not be allowed to rumble on any longer.”

Ulster Unionist Press Office
Room 215 Parliament Buildings


Further reading:

  1. OFMandDFM – Sexual Orientation
  2. BBC News MLAs Support Sexual Orientation Motion




QUB Peter Froggatt centre

Friday 22 November 2013, 7pm



My thanks go to the Union of Students in Ireland for inviting me to open their Pink Training Event tonight and to Laura Harmon (and Ben Archibald) for organising it.

Your numbers here tonight, in the hundreds, (c. 300) and your enthusiasm are seriously impressive.

Pink Training has been happening almost as long as Belfast Gay Pride which is quite something for the student world, where corporate memory is necessarily brief.

My student days in Dublin were gay enough but not in organisational terms. I was at the university of life, with too many evenings spent in the famous, indeed unequalled, Dublin gay bar, Bartley Dunne’s, in the late 1960s.

It was only after gay liberation that our anger and indeed rage was channelled into groups and meetings, by which time I was back living in Belfast. QUB was very much in the vanguard having hosted a Gay Liberation Society from about 1972. One of the founders was the theatre director Andy Hinds from Derry. It was a curious mixture of town and gown that worked. relationships were intense too.

Indeed GLS, by 1975, had a grant and offices in an unused building round the corner in 4 University Street. Best of all we organised and ran discos in the Queen’s Students Union which became famous in the worst of times in this city, for fun and dancing. We were so popular gays were in danger of being outnumbered by straights.

Then we knuckled down to thirty years of equality campaigning not least by means of my successful Strasbourg case, funded in part by those very same discos.

The Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association (NIGRA) was born, and Cara-Friend (CF), the befriending and information organisation. Both exist to this day.

Our twilight existence where we were getting funding and support – despite being criminals, indeed part of a conspiracy, came to an abrupt end in the great police round-up of 1976. All male NIGRA and CF committee members were arrested although none – after months of waiting – were ever charged.

The consequent case at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg took six long grinding years before we won in 1981. A year later the government was forced to decriminalise in a law put through the House of Commons late at night against the wishes of all NI political parties (and shamefully even gay Unionist MPs I later discovered).

This was a European first and laid the groundwork for a host of later successes at the Court, not least in the south of Ireland where we eased the path for David Norris and for Alexander Modinos in Cyprus. And it was even quoted in the recent US Supreme Court Texas sodomy case.

My lawyer antagonists at the Court prospered. The UK’s lead barrister against me, in time, became the President of the Strasbourg Court, while Sir Brian Kerr was to become the NI Lord Chief Justice and now sits on the UK Supreme Court.

But we won. We beat them. A successful group effort in Belfast and beyond made the difference.

It remains unquestionable and remarkable – and maybe it tells you something – that the two best-known, and most written about, gay characters in the last 100 years were both Irish, and both went to jail, although only one to the scaffold.

Roger Casement, whose biography I have written, was brought up partly in Antrim, going to school in Ballymena. He became an Irish separatist and helped found and arm the Irish Volunteers (Óglaigh na hÉireann), the forerunner of the IRA, exactly a century ago. His landing of arms from Germany in 1916 led to a charge of treason and the death penalty exacted by an inevitably anti-gay government.

It matters that Casement was gay, not least because it is unlikely, otherwise, he would have been such a rebel. (I reprinted those diaries in my book, including the never-before-or-since published 1911 diary which is the most seriously sexual.)

One of the complaints of those argue that the Casement Black Diaries are forged – and there are still a number who say so – is that homosexuals are trying to turn Casement into a gay icon.

This assertion infers that gay men are, as a class, historically minded, which has more than a grain of truth. The notion however that Casement has a cult following like James Dean or Marilyn Monroe is laughable.

He is no gay icon, as he did not address the matter in his career but he lived the life extensively, wrote it up more so and that is interesting. He did however become something of a religious icon because of his saintly looks.

Up close, everyone is human so it is unwise to admire too much – Oscar Wilde, WH Auden, Christopher Isherwood, James Baldwin, Harvey Milk, Peter Tatchell might be or become gay icons. But they are, or were, like us all, flawed, and sometimes less than attractive.

My personal icon would be the 1950s law reformer and Ulster Unionist MP, Harford Montgomery Hyde. He was also author of The Other Love, a History of Homosexuality in Britain and Ireland, which is still a book to consult although overtaken, where Ireland is concerned, by Brian Lacey’s 2008 work Terrible Queer Creatures – Homosexuality in Irish History.

Montgomery Hyde did more for us than most, and paid the price in career terms by being deselected for his North Belfast seat in 1959. This was as a result of being the most prominent MP in the House of Commons pressing for decriminalisation.

One of his opponents then was a young preacher, Ian Paisley, who came to prominence as leader of the Save Ulster From Sodomy campaign in the 1970s. His sidekick was Peter Robinson now our First Minister. We had our work cut out dealing with their disturbing and at times intimidating and extensive operation.

Being anti-gay or trying to keep us criminal rarely blighted political and legal careers. But we won. They didn’t. It is they who have changed, if grudgingly.

One becomes history after two generations, even if still alive. I know. I am just that. History.

But I still have a life in politics to a large degree, and to a smaller degree now in gay matters particularly in relation to policing and law reform. Others, in a range of organisations, do the bulk of the work.

We have continued to achieve significant victories around equality. One example is the election to councils of the first out lesbians and gays. These are people selected as candidates by their parties in full knowledge of their sexuality and then voted in by the electorate.

And one of those councillors, Andrew Muir, is currently the Mayor of North Down. He is from the Alliance Party, interestingly elected in part by his DUP colleagues.

And unnoticed, indeed unremarked, a gay member of the Ulster Unionist Party is one of its two representatives at the talks chaired by Dr Richard Haass and Professor Meghan O’Sullivan of the New York Council on Foreign Relations.

I – for it is me – have just come from two meetings and four hours with the American pair, tasked to try and find a way forward, with the five executive political parties, on the dividing issues of Flags, Parades and The Past. Hence my photo-opportunity suit and imperial purple tie.

To be an active Unionist does not mean you are an ex-gay, something some seem to believe.

Finally, coming up to date on campaigning, what are the current issues being addressed by local activists?

In truth, we are heading towards becoming a protected species and need fear little or no hostility from officialdom. This may not hold for ever, I would caution.

However the perennial issue of violence against LGBT people remains, as can be seen from the recent trial of the murderers of Andrew Lorimer in Lurgan and of Shaun Fitzpatrick in Dungannon. In Andrew’s case the sentences were pitiful and it is to be hoped that they are reviewed by the PPS. Indeed it would be of assistance if you were to consider writing to Barra McGrory (the head of the Public Prosecution Service) accordingly.

The fact remains that über-violence is meted out in these horrendous attacks. That will take decades to reduce as it involves one of the baser instincts in many males – fear of women. And of homosexuals – homophobia in the strictest sense of the word against gay men and lesbians. And Transphobia especially so, a greater treason, as can be seen from their casualty count world-wide.

Otherwise gay or equal marriage, the blood donation ban and changing of the adoption laws are the issues of today.

Each of these reforms can and will be advanced in the courts. Our local Assembly for complicated reasons can’t or won’t do the needful. It came into being and is, to a degree, supported by those who want to avoid changing such laws.

So be it. We can get round them but it is producing the same anger and rage as we felt in the 1970s. And the same productive resistance.

So far the Minster of Health has lost cases on adoption and blood donation. How he proceeds, if he does at all, remains a matter of concern.

Gay marriage which will soon be uniquely absent in these islands is a harder nut to crack. Reform will be a matter of trench warfare in the local courts while ultimate victory, in a successful Strasbourg case, may be a decade away.

So welcome to Belfast. Do enjoy your days and nights here, and the pleasures of the city, take care in relation to illegal pills being peddled which have caused ten deaths here in recent months, and thank you for your kind reception.

To conclude, I open this USI weekend of Pink Training.


Jeff Dudgeon (NIGRA Treasurer)

'Is Green A Part Of The Rainbow? Sharia, Homosexuality, and LGBT Rights in the Muslim World: Some Critical Reflections'

Professor Javaid Rehman Brunel Law School, Brunel University London

Friday 6 December 2013, 1–2pm

Room MD008, Magee Campus

Light refreshments will be provided

The seminar will examine the legitimacy and validity of the claims for criminalization of homosexuality and discrimination against LGBT individuals from within the Sharia, as practiced in modern Muslim societies. It demonstrates that several passages of the Qur’an acknowledge homosexuality and celebrate sexual diversity, and that it is therefore inaccurate to suggest that there is a prohibition of homosexuality in Islam and to advocate criminalization or adoption of discriminatory practices targeting sexual minorities. Furthermore, it is argued that religious views and societal practices that suppress queerness or discriminate against LGBT persons are not only incompatible with human rights law, but also contradict the fundamental principles of the Sharia. Contrary to most of the established scholarly approaches, the paper argues that Sharia neither prohibits nor punishes homosexuality. To the contrary, a genuine enforcement of the laws based upon the Sharia in contemporary Muslim societies requires absolute recognition and celebration of diverse gender identities.

Javaid Rehman is a Professor of Islamic Law and International Human Rights Law and is the Director of Brunel University Research Centre, Security, Human Rights and the Media (SHRM). He was Head of Brunel Law School, Brunel University (2009-2013). During 2002–2005, he was a Professor of international law at University of Ulster (Magee). Professor Rehman was a member of the International Bar Association (IBA) Taskforce on International Terrorism (2009–2011). Professor Rehman is a member of the executive council of the Asian Society of International law and is a member of the International Law Association (ILA), and acts as the co-rapporteur for the ILA’s Committee on International Law and Islamic Law. His authored books include International Human Rights Law (Longman 2009) and Islamic State Practices, International Law and the Threat from Terrorism (Hart publishing 2005).

RSVP: Emer Carlin

Gay-to-straight conversion therapy in the UK

Request received via email – My name is Declan Harvey. I am journalist with BBC News at Radio 1

A parliamentary debate is being held in Westminster on plans
to regulate psychotherapists in the UK. Geraint Davies MP, who proposed
the bill, is very concerned in particular about the practice of
so-called ‘gay-to-straight conversion therapy’ in the UK.

As I’m sure you are aware the ‘treatment’ has been debunked by all the
major bodies. It is deemed unsuccessful and harmful. However it does
still take place in the UK and thus obviously there is a (albeit small)
demand for the service.

Radio 1 Newsbeat reaches 41% of all 15-24 year olds in the UK and this
is obviously an issue that affects and interests them.

I am contacting your organisation to see if there is anyone there, or
that you know of, who may be willing to share their experiences (and
thus, I assume, concerns) about ‘reparative therapy’. I want to stress
from the outset that all contributions *_can be completely anonymous_*.
There are techniques we use regularly which protect our contributors’

It is vital to us that we hear from a real case study, as our younger
audience engage better with them, rather than experts, spokespeople or

This is an important issue, which we are keen to cover /in the coming
week/ to tie in with the debate. If there is someone who you think may
be willing to take part please pass them my details. I would be happy to
take their call, if only to answer any questions they may have before
making a final decision. Essentially we are hoping to carry out a
pre-recorded interview.

As I said, their contributions can be 100% anonymous if they so wish.
There is no risk of identification to our audience, but it is important
to us their story is told.

Kindest thanks for your time already; I’m hopeful of hearing from you.


*Declan Harvey **(@NewsDeclan)*
*Broadcast Journalist **|**Newsbeat – BBC Radio 1 & Radio 1Xtra*
Zone D|New Broadcasting House|8^th Floor Portland Place|London W1A 1AA

)*07919 315 266 *| *0203 61 41 120*


*_Best News & Current Affairs Programme 2013_*- Sony Radio Academy Awards


Further reading:

  1. Parliamentary Business
  2. Pink News

LGBT History Archive – Open Meeting

Outburst is showing A CENTURY LATER: LGBT – A HIDDEN HISTORY on Sat. 16th Nov 3.30pm in the Black Box- Green Room and its FREE (Northern Visions Dur: 40 Min).


Immediately following the screening will be an informal round table discussion, led by the LGBT History Archive Working Group in Belfast, around building an online public archive that shares the stories, memorabilia and key events that shaped, and continue to shape, our LGBT histories in Northern Ireland.

Please come along and let us know your views, and even better get involved with the project



LGBT Remembrance at Belfast Cenotaph

Those who gathered to remember past LGBT people persecuted for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Photo: Simon Rea.

Those who gathered to remember past LGBT people persecuted for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Photo: Simon Rea.

This morning about ten to eleven, a number of members of the LGBT community from the city of Belfast gathered to stand in solidarity and remembrance for all those in Germany, and all nations who lost their lives or were imprisoned for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The short simple act of remembrance was instituted and organised in the past by PA MagLochlainn, who died about this time a year ago. This year, Andrew Smyth from Cara-Friend organised the event and we were pleased to support it.

We heard from a number of readings including an extract from The Men with the Pink Triangle by Heinz Heger which was read by John O’Doherty of The Rainbow Project.

The prisoners’ uniforms were marked with a coloured cloth triangle to denote their offence or origin.

Yellow for Jews, black for anti-socials, red for politicalise, purple for Jehovah’s Witnesses, green for criminals, blue for emigrants, pink for homosexuals, brown for gypsies.

The pink triangle, however, was about 2 or 3 centimetres larger that the others, so that we could be clearly recognised from a distance. (from The Men with the Pink Triangle)

A wreath in the shape of a pink triangle was laid at the Cenotaph by Jeff Dudgeon and Andrew Smyth and we stood together in silence to remember those that suffered at the hands of the Nazis and all who have suffered persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Experienced a hate crime in Belfast? Victim Support NI want to know about it

victim_support_logoIf you have experienced any hate crime in Belfast in the last few years, then please fill in the survey which is being conducted by Lisa Faulkner from the Jordanstown campus of the University of Ulster for Victim Support NI.

The aim of the survey is to map services / provisions for victims of hate crimes in Belfast and to capture their views and opinions of the services.

The survey will close on 5th November 2013.

Please complete the survey by visiting

For help and support contact Victim Support NI on 028 9024 3133; website

15 years after Matthew Shepard: so much achieved for gay rights, but so much more to do

I remember reading my copy of Gay Times about the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard. At the time I ended up in tears, and this evening re-reading about the murder, looking at photographs of those responsible as well as of that infamous fence in the State of Wyoming and the well known family photo of Matthew. The Matthew Shepard Foundation posted the following status on Facebook, and I feel that we should spread it wider.

1243162_595280560534122_1768961158_o“15 years ago this evening, Matthew Shepard was driven from the Fireside Lounge in Laramie, Wyoming to the outskirts of the city by two strangers who did not like that he was gay. They tied him to a fence, beat him with the butt of a gun, and left him for dead.

“The Casper Star Tribune, Matthew’s hometown newspaper, ran a beautiful story of the contradictions Wyoming still has in the acceptance and treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“These contradictions parallel those at the national and international level as well. Just because same-sex couples can get married in 13 states and the District of Columbia doesn’t mean that these couples don’t have to think about their rights when they go on vacation. Or get transferred for work and move to one of the 29 states in which you can be fired for being gay, 33 for being transgender.

“While progress has been made over the last 15 years, we have a long way to go before we have true, meaningful equality.”

— Matthew Shepard Foundation Facebook page

So much achieved, yet so much still to do

So much has been achieved for gay rights across the world in the years since Matthew’s cruel death, but we have still so much to do. Fifteen years on, the same homophobia seen in Wyoming in 1998 is very much alive and well here in Northern Ireland.

  • A man had his nose broken nose during a homophobic assault on the Dublin to Belfast train between Newry and Portadown in December 2012. (Belfast Telegraph)
  • Henry McDonald wrote in the Guardian that the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland found in some research that 80% of homophobic attacks here in Northern Ireland are not reported.
  • Thug jailed for homophobic attack in Belfast gay bar reported in the Belfast Telegraph in June 2013
  • In September three men admitted the manslaughter of Andrew Lorimer in Lurgan in what is a suspected homophobic attack.
  • A drug addict took a legal high before he attacked a man and shouted homophobic abuse at him, a court heard in July 2013. (BBC News)

The cases illustrated above are those which have made it into a quick search on Google. I am sure that there have been many more homophobic incidents since this time last year. As the Police Service of Northern Ireland has said in the past,

“Hate crime is unacceptable, no one deserves to experience it and no one deserves to get away with it. To stop it, report it, do not suffer in silence.”

It is clear to me that we must continue to stand up for our rights, not just against homophobic attacks but the anti-gay policies of the DUP health minister, Edwin Poots, who seems to be leading a new crusade against our rights in his relentless appeals against decisions of the Northern Irish Courts relating to the Gay Blood Ban, and Adoption by Gay Couples.

Anyone interested in working towards full equality for all who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, please get in touch and help stand alongside our brothers and sisters in the Matthew Shepard Foundation working to ‘Erase Hate’ now.