“How can we celebrate LGBT+ History Month? By getting legends like Dai Donovan over to speak in Belfast and making our own history. And the Love Equality campaign has been making history this week.” – Claire Mullaly, BT Northern Ireland branch secretary.
On Thursday 15 February, as part of LGBT+ History Month, Prospect and BECTU presented a special screening of Pride followed by a question and answer session with BECTU officer Dai Donovan (played by Paddy Considine) at the Queen’s Film Theatre in Belfast.
The Q&A was preceded by an introduction to the Northern Ireland Love Equality campaign by Olivia Potter-Hughes, president of the student union body NUS-USI, who issued a call to keep up the pressure for marriage equality in the midst of a tough week for the campaign.
“Yesterday we were at Stormont to give politicians a petition with more than 13,000 signatures in support of marriage equality legislation for Valentine’s Day, a few hours before the news broke that another deal had collapsed,” she said.
“For us it’s becoming abundantly clear that the petition of concern needs to be reformed and not left as it currently is, being abused to prevent the equality and rights that it was designed to protect. So support the campaign online and help us show the Northern Ireland Executive that love is love, love is a right and love will win.”
Pride’s message of solidarity could not be more pertinent to contemporary Northern Ireland. Set in the 1980s, the film tells the story of a group of striking south Wales miners and the London-based Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) group, who find a common cause in an era of homophobia and strident union bashing.
As one of the first Welsh community members to meet with LGSM and a central protagonist throughout, it is a relationship in which Dai played a vital role.
“...[really] it was the story of 24,000 miners in Wales and their families and [the film] brought great credit on them I think,” Dai said, “and it certainly brought great credit on LGSM and the fact that during all the oppression they’d been exposed to over the Thatcher years in particular, they were generous enough to help us in our hour of need.”
It’s a model of comradeship that is desirable everywhere in 2018. But in Belfast the hope underpinning the film is just as important in a part of the UK that lags behind the rest of Britain in marriage equality legislation. As Olivia asked, what advice did Dai have for those in Northern Ireland who may be getting dispirited?
Dai said it’s about playing the long game. “If you look back at those events, we weren’t fighting with the notion that one day we would have same-sex marriage or we would have legislation that protected gay people from being harassed and bullied.
“We fought because we believed in the fight that we needed to make for our communities. We made links with other groups like LGSM because ... we believed passionately in society and in the collective. It is about patience. I think it is inevitable that you will get what you are fighting for here in terms of same-sex marriage. Continue fighting for the sort of world that you want.
“The big message from Pride was this,” Dai continued. “Those people that some politicians and the press and the media want you to fear, well maybe they’re not right. Maybe they tell you that because they’ve got an agenda. But the people that you are encouraged to fear – they may not be the enemy, they may well turn out to be firm friends. It doesn’t end tomorrow, it doesn’t end next week, it’s a continual battle to make sure that we get the sort of society that we feel we deserve.”
- Watch the live stream of the Q&A on BECTU’s Facebook page
- Read about and sign up to our National Trust branch LGBT+ History Month event, Telling our stories – Why history is important for LGBT equality, on 27 February
- For more information about the Love Equality campaign, visit http://loveequalityni.org/
Picture caption: Dai Donovan is interviewed by BECTU rep Simon Wood in Belfast