Key dates in the history of the National LGBT Federation (NXF)
1979 – National Gay Federation (NGF) established
In 1979 the NGF was established and it leased a building, which it called the Hirschfeld Centre, named after the German Sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, in the then underdeveloped Temple Bar area of Dublin. The community centre was the first full-time lesbian and gay venue in Ireland. It housed a meeting space, a youth group, a café, a small cinema and film club and it ran discos at the weekend where gay men, lesbian women and transgender people socialised.
1980 – Pre-cursor to the Irish Queer Archive (IQA) set up
In 1980 a sub-group within the NGF began to maintain documents and media cuttings of relevance to LGBT people, establishing an embryonic national lesbian and gay archive, which acted as a precursor of the Irish Queer Archive (IQA) that developed later.
1981 – 1st national gay conference in Ireland
Members of the NGF participate in the first national gay conference in Ireland, held in Cork and organised by the Cork Gay Collective.
1981 to 1984 – Identity magazine published by NGF
A quarterly review published by the NGF, it was the first gay periodical, as opposed to a newsletter in Ireland, and it set an important benchmark in LGBT publishing. Although it was criticised in some quarters for being too academic and elitist, this journal set new standards in design and LGBT journalism. Eason’s refused to stock it, as the words “gay” or “lesbian” appeared on its cover. Eight issues were published with contributions by Derek Jarman, David O’Connor, Frank McGuinness and others. In a social and political climate that made advertising difficult to acquire, this journal was a huge drain on the finances of a voluntary, non-profit-making organisation and it ceased publication in March 1984.
1984 to 1988 – Out magazine published by NGF
From 1984 to 1988 the NGF published Out magazine, Ireland’s first commercial lesbian and gay publication. Out was a news and review magazine that was aimed at the gay community and a general audience who were interested in LGBT issues and LGBT culture. Distributed by Eason’s the magazine achieved more widespread penetration nation-wide than any previous gay publication. Nell McCafferty, Walt Kilroy, Tonie Walsh, Nuala O’Faoláin and Thom McGinty were among its regular contributors. Unfortunately it was undercaptialised throughout its three-year history and the final issue in October 2008 was delayed for some time because the magazine’s printers – the Carlow Nationalist and Leinster Times – refused to print the previous issue due to an “offensive” Gay Health Action ad on safer sex for gay men.
1987 – Fire closes down Hirschfeld Centre
In 1987, the Hirschfeld Centre was badly damaged in a fire – presumed to be accidental – that closed the community centre in the building which had acted as the beating heart of Dublin’s lesbian and gay community for over eight years.
1988 – Gay Community News published
On 10 February 1988 an eight-page tabloid newspaper called Gay Community News (GCN) hit the streets for the very first time. It was published from the remains of the badly damaged Hirschfeld Centre. “We wanted it to be irreverent and earnest at the same time and it had to look like a newspaper,” says founding editor Tonie Walsh who developed GCN with the general secretary of the NGF, Catherine Glendon. Glendon tragically died from a stroke on 5 August 1987, at the prime of her career. Her loss was a hug blow, putting the launch of the paper back by several months.
GCN, Issue One, was designed by Niall Sweeney, who went on to become one of Ireland’s leading graphic designers and one of the founders of the Alternative Miss Ireland (AMI). The first issue flagged a story about three gay women abseiling into the House of Lords to protest against Section 28 in the UK, a feature about cross dressing and an item on criminal law written by barrister Jim Treanor. The only professional journalist involved in Issue One was Walt Kilroy, who went on to become an RTE news reporter.
“GCN is the longest continuous queer periodical in Ireland,” says Walsh. “It continues to be a unique and defining voice of gay people in this country and in time will become an invaluable historical document.”
1991 – National Gay Federation (NGF) changes its name to the National Lesbian and Gay Federation (NLGF)
In September 1990 the Board of the NLGF approved a proposal to change the name of the organisation from the NGF to the NLGF. The proposal was ratified by the members of the organisation by an overwhelming vote of 84% in favour and 16% opposed. The change was made to be more inclusive of women in the organisation, as the term gay was no longer considered to adequately represent gay women who preferred the term lesbian, which was considered more feminist and political. On 1st January 1991 the organisation officially changed its name to the NLGF.
1997 – NLGF/GCN move to Outhouse & IQA public office opens
The NLGF/GCN moved office from the old Hirschfeld Centre building, to the temporary new premises of the Outhouse LGBT Community Resource on Wicklow St, Dublin 2. The IQA archive and reference library was put on a more organised footing with the move into the new premises. At that point civil rights activist and writer Tonie Walsh directed a systematic re-organisation of its holdings. A limited public office was set up in a short time, facilitating researchers, students and journalists in addition to servicing the research needs of GCN.
1997 – Publication of the 100th issue of GCN
1999 – Establishment of Irish Queer Archives Working Group
In December 1999, the NLGF appointed a working group of academics, historians and writers to focus on exploiting the collections of the Irish Queer Archive and making suggestions for a future safe home. This IQA group consisted of Dr Eibhear Walshe, lecturer in English at UCC; Dr Mary McAuliffe and Dr Katherine O’Donnell, both staff of the Women’s Studies Department at UCD; Joan Murphy, an RTE archivist; librarian Elizabeth Kirwan of NLI; and Tonie Walsh, former president of the NLGF and founding editor of Gay Community News.
2000 – The National Lesbian and Gay Federation (NLGF) is established as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee.
2001 – GCN moves to new offices on Scarlett Row, Dublin 8, while Outhouse moves to new premises on Capel St., Dublin 1.
2003 – Re-launch of GCN from newsprint to magazine format
In July 2003, GCN changed from a newsprint freesheet into a high-quality, full-colour magazine. The decision to do this was based on the need for GCN to compete in the commercial market and attract advertising in order to survive. At that time, GCN was operating at a loss.
In the years following the re-launch of GCN, the magazine made record advertising revenue, branching out from only LGBT advertising into the mainstream.
2006 – Publication of 200th issue of GCN
2007 – 1st NLGF Symposium
‘Marriage and Partnership Rights for Lesbian and Gay People’ is held in Dublin in December 2007, providing the catalyst for the establishment of the ‘Platform for Equality’, a network of LGBT organisations campaigning for full civil marriage rights for lesbians and gay men in Ireland.
Development of MarriagEquality
The NLGF was instrumental in helping to establish the MarriagEquality organisation in 2007, a key national LGBT NGO that is advocating for civil marriage rights for LGBT people in Ireland.
2008 – Handover of Irish Queer Archive (IQA) to the National Library of Ireland
In June 2008 the NLGF handed over responsibility for the Irish Queer Archive to the National Library of Ireland. The massive collection, which is now housed in the National Library building on Kildare St., contains 250,000 press cuttings, clippings from international gay magazines dating back as far as 1950 and a complete set of every lesbian/gay title published since 1974 on the island of Ireland. There is also a collection of Irish lesbian and gay films, an archive of letters from individuals all across the country dating from 1970, and a fascinating collection of audiovisual material, photographs and slides, flyers, posters, badges and other ephemera.
GCN since 2008
Since the economic downturn beginning at the end of 2008, advertising revenue across the magazine publishing world took a large hit. In the face of GCN’s advertising revenue decrease, a new fundraising campaign was launched for the magazine. GCN Forever continues to raise funds through charitable donations and fundraising events, to secure GCN’s future in the short and long-term. To donate to GCN Forever, or to find out more, please click here. http://www.gcn.ie/forever.aspx
2009 marks a new stage in the development of the NLGF
The 21st birthday issue of GCN was published in February 2009 and the fabulous GCN ICON party was held in TRIPOD to celebrate this historic event in Irish LGBT history.
The NLGF symposium: ‘Marriage Matters for Lesbian & Gay People in Ireland’ was held in Dublin in May 2009, supported by the EU and the Equality Authority.
The NLGF GALAS, the 1st annual LGBT awards, were held in Dublin in September 2009. The Gay and Lesbian Awards (GALAS) were set up by the National Lesbian and Gay Federation to honour lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people and organisations for their contributions to Irish society. The awards are also to honour politicians, employers and other people who are committed to advancing equality and social acceptance for LGBT Irish people in Ireland. Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan accept the prestigious NLGF ‘Persons of the Year’ Award.
‘Burning Issues: Listening to the Voices of the LGBT Community in Ireland’ is published in November 2009. Burning Issues was a seminal-scoping study that provided a comprehensive evidence base of the political, social and equality issues of central importance to Irish LGBT people.
2010 – NLGF becomes member of the EU’s Fundamental Rights Platform
The NLGF becomes a member of the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP) which has been established by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA). The FRA collects data on fundamental rights, conducts research and analysis, provides independent advice to policy-makers, networks with human rights stakeholders, and develops communications to raise awareness of fundamental rights. The Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP) is a network for cooperation and information exchange, set to act as
the main channel for FRA’s cooperation with civil society – across the EU – and to ensure a close cooperation between the FRA and relevant stakeholders.
2nd Annual NLGF GALAS
Lydia Foy, campaigner for transgender rights, is the NLGF’s ‘Person of the Year’ while An Garda Síochanna are awarded ‘Employer of the Year’.
2011 – 3rd Annual NLGF GALAS
3rd Annual NLGF GALAS Awards is held. Writer Emma Donoghue wins the NLGF ‘Person of the Year Award’ and MarriagEquality wins the Community Organisation of the Year Award. The show opens with a powerful and moving tribute to the NLGF from former Irish President McAleese who wins the LGBT Political Figure of the Year Award.
October 2012 -1st National Coming Out Day event
NLGF organised a screening of the documentary film ‘TransAction’ about the personal journey of Polish Transgender MP Anna Grodzka to celebrate National Coming Out Day..
February 2013 Outing Exclusion Conference
In conjunction with Dublin City Council Social Inclusion Unit and The Community Foundation for Ireland, the NLGF organised ‘Outing Exclusion’: the first conference in Ireland to examine the issues of poverty and social exclusion in the LGBT community. The event highlighted how issues relating to poverty, economic inequality and multiple disadvantage impact upon LGBT people. The conference also acted as a platform for LGBT organisations and anti-poverty organisations to discuss solutions to address poverty and inequality amongst LGBT people. The conference was opened by the Polish MP, Anna Grodzka, who discussed the need to tackle social exclusion by reasserting the importance of human need in politics and regulating the worst excesses of corporate and financial greed which stunts democracy and human rights.
GCN’s 25 birthday anniversary issue is published
In February 2013, GCN celebrated its 25th birthday with a special presentation at the GALAS, which included a film about GCN’s pivotal role in Ireland’s LGBT community. Watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SO9y80l8l0
The 25th anniversary issue of GCN featured the historical highlights of the past 25 years in LGBT Ireland, plus 25 pivotal LGBT moments from 25 years, as picked by the readers of GCN.
February 2013 – 4th Annual GALAs
Michael Barron accepts the NLGF’s ‘Person of the Year’ award.
March 2013 – NLGF elects a new Chair
Ailbhe Smyth resigns as the Chair of the NLGF after 14 years of dedicated service to the organisation, during which time she worked assiduously for the rights of, and to combat discrimination against, LGBT people. Ailbhe also placed GCN on a financially sustainable footing, and ensured that the NLGF maintained a strong, sharp focus on the goal of marriage equality for same-sex couples.
Olivia McEvoy becomes the Chair of the NLGF
April 2013 – Submission to the Constitutional Convention
The NLGF made a submission to the Constitutional Convention regarding the extension of equal marriage rights to same-sex couples. The following month, Convention delegates met to discuss the issue, and voted by an overwhelming 79% to recommend to government that marriage equality for same-sex couples not only be provided for but enshrined as a constitutional right. A referendum to enable this to happen is expected to take place in 2014. Although the NLGF strongly maintains that this basic civil right should be legislated for as a matter of urgency and not subject to a referendum, the organisation will be joining with the many other LGBT and civil society groups in campaigning vigorously for a ‘Yes’ vote.
June 2013 – To mark the occasion of Dublin Pride, the NLGF hosted two screenings in the IFI:
‘Where I Am’, the heart-breaking tale about Robert Drake and his return to Sligo and ‘Beyond Gay – The Politics of Pride’, a multi award-winning documentary which examines the relevance of Gay Pride celebrations internationally, against the backdrop of opposition to such events in a number of countries.
October 2013 – Marking National Coming Out Day again
The NLGF and Outhouse ran an information session on the afternoon of Friday 11th October, in conjunction with some of the key groups and services, for those who wanted to find out more or support someone they know in the process of Coming Out. The evening event was called ‘Making Out’ – an evening of short plays on the theme of coming out by Acting Out, with support from the NLGF.