The role of the Gay and Lesbian movement in combating AIDS in 1980s Ireland

‘If we are as successful in preventing AIDS as we have been in preventing unwanted pregnancies the outlook is bleak’: The role of the Gay and Lesbian movement in combating AIDS in 1980s Ireland

21 March 2018, 5:00 PM – Seminar Room 3, Badia Fiesolana

Lecture by Patrick McDonagh (EUI Researcher, Department of History and Civilization), organised by the LGBTIQ Interdisciplinary Working Group

In comparison with other countries, the history of AIDS in Ireland has beenIn comparison with other countries, the history of AIDS in Ireland has beenunder-researched. Very little is known about the historical emergence, response, andimpact of AIDS in Ireland. In particular, the role and activities of the Gay and LesbianMovement in responding to the AIDS crisis in Ireland has been ignored. With this in mind,I will discuss the response and activities of the Gay and Lesbian Movement to the AIDScrisis in the 1980s in Ireland. In particular, I will explore the public education campaignbegun by Gay Health Action in 1985 and continued throughout the 1980s. Whatinformation did GHA promote? How did they distribute this information? What role didinternational organisations play in the AIDS crisis in Ireland? What, if any support did GHAreceive from the Irish state? This talk will also contrast the response of the GHA with thatof the Irish state and Irish Roman Catholic Church. As a result of their efforts, I maintainthat GHA not only undermined the position of the Irish Roman Catholic Church and theIrish state, but crucially helped to undermine the negative image of homosexuals asdeviant and irresponsible. In fact, their response to the AIDS crisis resulted in manysectors of Irish society praising the gay community and their efforts to combat AIDS.GHA’s actions I contend were a central yet forgotten part of the campaign for gayliberation in Ireland. Had it not been for the activities of the gay community in Ireland,particularly its interaction with international groups dealing with AIDS, the AIDS crisis maywell have been much worse than it was in Ireland.