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Image / Agenda / Breaking Stories

Locals are showing their support for Waterford’s LGBTQI+ community following homophobic incidents


by Sarah Finnan
18th Jun 2021

@PollyandAndy / Twitter

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In light of the tearing down and burning of Pride flags and homophobic posters plastered around the city, Waterford locals are asking the country to send more Pride flags.

Every year during the month of June, LGBTQI+ communities across the world come together to celebrate Pride Month. Encouraging people to be their true authentic selves, it’s a time that should be characterised by freedom and acceptance. Unfortunately such is not always the case and recent events down in Waterford have proven why there’s still a terribly long road to go before homophobia becomes a thing of the past. 

What happened?

As is usually the case in counties across Ireland, Pride flags were put up in Waterford a couple of weeks ago to celebrate the start of another Pride month. Erected outside the local council buildings in both Waterford City and Dungarvan, the flags were supposed to act as a public show of support to the Pride of the Déise festival which was a weekend of online events geared toward the LGBTQI+ community. Not everyone saw it that way, however, and council members arrived into work the next day only to discover that the flags outside the Menapia Building on The Mall had been burned overnight. 

Criticising whoever was responsible for the act and describing it as “disgusting”, Mayor of Waterford Cllr Damien Geoghegan later commented that it’s a prime example of why Pride is so important. “It would be a rare occurrence but it goes to show why festivals like Pride matter in the first place, because there are still people who view the LGBTQI+ community as legitimate targets of hate”, he said at the time. 

A man in his 40s was arrested in connection with the incident. Charged with a count of criminal damage, he’s due to appear in court over the matter on July 6. One week later, Waterford Pride flags were removed from outside the council offices for a second time. 

How locals responded 

Calling on locals to show that such an attitude is in the minority, organisers of the Pride of the Déise festival asked for homes and businesses to display their own Pride flags in response. Local radio station WLRFM have been asking people around the country to send them any spare Pride flags so they can distribute them to anyone who wants one.

Rallying behind the request, there was a huge outpouring of love for the movement, with homes and businesses displaying their flags proudly.

Posters

Unfortunately, that’s not where the saga ends and the latest homophobic attack has seen around 70 so-called “straight pride” posters plastered around the city on Wednesday night. Showing an image of a man and woman on their wedding day, the poster reads, “Straight Pride: it’s natural, it’s worked for thousands of years and you can make babies”.

Posting a photo she snapped of the horrific posters online, local woman Michelle Byrne captioned it, “Homophobic hate on show in Waterford City again tonight.”

Gaining momentum online, several others have since tweeted their disgust at both the posters and the ongoing homophobia on display. In fact, one artist even went so far as to create her own Gay Pride version of the poster. 

Also condemning those behind the recent actions, Waterford poet and writer, Wayne Power, told Déise Today radio that it’s hard to understand what would motivate such hatred. 

“You should be counting your lucky stars that you don’t have to have a straight pride. When you can’t hold your partner’s hand in public for fear of a bit of abuse, or in a bar for fear of being glassed, then you can come to me and talk about Straight Pride.”

Saying that it would be a shame for the city to be “tarred” over the behaviour of “one or two empty-headed people”, Wayne will be donating all profits from the sale of his new book of poetry to charity in light of recent events. Titled Everyone’s a Star after Midnight, all proceeds will be going to Chill Out – the local youth service which works to support young LGBTQI+ members of the community.  

“As a poet and a writer, and as I said, I am a gay man myself, I have no problem using whatever platform I have to stand up for what I believe to be right and to be decent and respectable.

“And this is why, because of the Pride flags being burned, I woke up on the Bank Holiday Monday and I saw that and it really did hit hard,” he continued.

“I’m a lot older than some of the younger generation and you never stop being affected by something like that.”Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman will also visit LGBTQI+ groups in Waterford following recent events, commenting that he “looks forward” to raising the Pride flag in the city to show his support. 

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