When it comes to LGBT rights, Ireland’s been having a pretty good year. The gender recognition bill passed, we made the Top 10 list of gay-friendly nations around the world, and the whole country voted in favour of marriage equality. In fact, just last week (after a few unwelcome hiccups in the form of some very unnecessary appeals), President Michael D. Higgins signed the bill into law. It’ll take a few weeks for the legal changes to actually take effect, but it’s great news nonetheless. Ireland – you’ve done your LGBT community proud. And somebody has an idea as to how you can make them even prouder.
Yesterday, Dale McDermott launched his Dublin Rainbow Walk proposal – a project aiming to see the installation of several rainbow coloured pedestrian crossings at various points around Dublin City Centre. Having been influenced by the significance of similar walkways in San Francisco, Tel Aviv, and Sydney, Dale believes that the installation of these crossings would not only ensure that Dublin continues to be a prime location for gay people, but would also prove that the city will always support and welcome LGBT community members from around the world.
The proposal was submitted to all Dublin City Councillors yesterday. It details the rationale behind the project, proposes three locations for the installation of rainbow pedestrian crossings, and provides reasons as to why Dublin City Council should approve the project. The full proposal can be found here. It’s a really great idea, and includes some really nice artistic impressions of the crossings, so you should definitely read it.
I got in touch with Dale, and he told me some more about his inspiration for the project, his views on Ireland’s progression since the marriage referendum, and his hopes for the success of his proposal.
What inspired you to submit your proposal to Dublin City Council?
I graduated from college in May of this year, so a bunch of my friends decided to travel the west coast of the United States for a couple of weeks. San Francisco was one of the cities we visited and while we were there we went down to the Castro District, which is effectively the LGBT area in the city. While we were there, straight away we noticed these pretty cool rainbow-coloured pedestrian crossings and were immediately in awe of them. I felt that Ireland needed to have something similar so I began to research the pedestrian crossings and quickly discovered that they were not just restricted to San Francisco, but they were also in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sydney, Australia, and West Hollywood. I felt that given how far our nation has come since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1993, to becoming the first country in the world to introduce Marriage Equality by popular vote, this is something we had to do.
Do you think your proposal will be successful?
I’m quite hopeful. The response so far has been very positive and I’ve worked closely with Fine Gael Councillor for Glasnevin Noel Rock on this project, so we hope to have a motion submitted to the Council shortly, and for it to be debated in the coming weeks. I think Councillors ultimately need to understand that this proposal is good for business, good for culture and good for tourism. It will bring many benefits to our nation’s capital.
Have you noticed a shift in attitudes towards the LGBT community in Dublin since the success of the marriage referendum?
Yes, one hundred percent. The first thing I began to notice was more and more same-sex couples were holding hands in the city centre. It was brilliant to see because many, including myself, would have been apprehensive about holding hands or showing public displays of affections for fear of others judging, or saying something. Now, that deeply unhealthy and consistent feeling that you need to check over your shoulder has been greatly reduced.
What is the significance of the locations you have chosen?
I have chosen three locations:
George’s Street and Dame Street Junction
For decades, George’s Street has been the unofficial gay quarter of Dublin City, and is home to the famous public house, ‘The George;’ an establishment that was originally a sanctuary for many in the LGBT community, and is now one that is frequented by many people, both gay and straight. This location would provide a real recognition of the history associated with the surrounding area and could help to further bolster tourist traffic within the area. With this junction being one of Dublin’s busiest, it would maximise exposure for the project.
Parliament Street and Dame Street Junction
On the day of the Marriage Equality referendum result (Saturday, 23rd May 2015), the courtyard of Dublin Castle was opened up to the public to hear the declaration. Following the declaration by the National Returning Officer, thousands of people left the courtyard and proceeded to Dame Street via Cork Hill, and Dublin effectively came to a standstill as members of the public celebrated outside City Hall for the evening. The two pedestrian crossings highlighted in the featured image above provide Dublin City Council with the opportunity to commemorate this historic celebration by installing the proposed rainbow themed pedestrian crossings in this immediate area. A commemorative plaque could also be installed highlighting the significance of the area.
Capel Street and Strand Street Upper Junction
Pantibar has quickly become one of Ireland’s most famous pubs, and is now a landmark for LGBT people within our city. Panti Bliss was extremely prominent during the Marriage Equality referendum and has now become a world icon. In recognition of the above facts, and also the transformation of Capel Street into another gay quarter in our city, the installation of rainbow pedestrian crossings here would further benefit the area.
Do you think that Ireland still has some way to go before full equality can be achieved?
I think we have seen a really big change in how we are dealing with inequality. Not soon after the success of Marriage Equality, transgender rights came on the political agenda, and our parliament passed one of the world’s most progressive transgender rights bills in the world. Ireland has become a beacon of hope to many across the world who suffer from inequality, and with gender quotas in place for the upcoming general election, I hope that one of the biggest inequalities in the world – how we treat women – is addressed, and balance is brought back with regards to women’s representation in parliament. We’ve a lot more to do, but we’ve a lot to be proud of.
You can follow Dale McDermott on Twitter here.
Images via Dale McDermott