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Friday, September 30, 2016

Ireland-A Rainbow Shamrock

Written by  David Placher

After staying a few days in Reykjavik, Iceland, I departed on Wow Airlines and arrived in Dublin, Ireland. Ireland is a unique country, both geographically and historically. It is located on a large island that is divided between the Republic of Ireland (officially known as Ireland) – an independent country – and Northern Island, which is part of the United Kingdom. (The U.K. comprises of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Island.) Ireland’s history is epic and the castles and churches peppered through the countryside only add to its awesomeness. With all of its history and structures, its LGBT history and culture places it in a class of its own.

 

In 1988, Senator David Norris from the Senate of Ireland, and the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform went to the European Court of Human Rights, in the case of Norris vs. Ireland, and it ruled that the criminalization of homosexuality in the Ireland violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to privacy in personal affairs. Five years later, the Oireachtas (Irish parliament) decriminalized homosexuality. On May 22, 2015, Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. That same year, transgender people in Ireland were allowed to self-declare their gender for passports and driver’s licenses. Gay adoption is legal and people that serve in Ireland’s military can serve openly.

The two cities I visited play an important role in the LGBT history and community. Dublin is home to several of the greatest LGBT writers, such as Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Bowen, and Mary Dorcey. It is also dominated by the Catholic Church and at one time, was extremely conservative.

In fear of religious persecution, in the 70s, Dublin had a secret gay scene that was centered around the theaters, with many in the community labeling some theaters as “Fairyhouses.” The term “Fairyhouses” and the secret meetings no longer exist: the venue for gays to meet openly are two thriving gay bars. The George (Thegeorge.ie), a large two-floor gay bar that provides almost nightly drag shows and great music. The drinks are cheap, especially the beer. A more quiet evening is at the Panti Bar (Pantibar.com), which provides a relaxing environment that promotes social interaction with little noise distraction. At these places, it is not uncommon to encounter flamboyant leprechauns that use childish humor to describe the male anatomy as a “snuggle stick” and the anus as a “yummy box.”

In addition to walking around Dublin and seeing its beautiful buildings and meeting its friendly people, there are several popular tourist attractions. The Guinness Storehouse and Brewery Tour takes you through a visual process of making Guinness as you travel up seven floors to the Gravity Bar. There you see your bartender perform the perfect pour (takes 11.5 seconds at a 45 degree angle) of your complimentary pint. The Kilmainham Goal, a former prison, is also a popular destination where many Irish revolutionaries were imprisoned and executed in the prison by the British more than 100 years ago.

Galway is a beautiful harbor city on Ireland’s west coast that resides where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean. Galwat is filled with cafes, boutiques, and art galleries, especially in the Latin Quarter, which retains some of its medieval city walls. Rainbow flags can be seen hanging from several businesses.

The exchange rate in Ireland is not too bad: one euro is around 1.12 U.S. dollars. The cost of hotels and to eat is substantially similar to the cost in Baltimore, and the cost to travel to Ireland is reasonable, especially if you take Wow Airlines (Wowair.com) – I cannot say enough great things about this airline.

A word of caution: Wow Airlines charges you for extra items on the flight, so bring your own drinks and food, and you are limited to one carry-on bag that should weigh less than 22 pounds and one personal item (e.g. backpack, purse); if you have more, you will be charged a fee.

If LGBT friendly Ireland is not on your travel destination bucket list, it should be.

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