Declan Flynn was 31 when he was beaten to death in Dublin's Fairview Park.
His attackers were 19 year old Tony Maher, 18 year old Robert Armstrong, who were both members of the Air Corps, 18 year old Patrick Kavanagh, 17 year old Colm Donovan and a 14-year-old boy. “We were all part of the team to get rid of queers in Fairview Park,” Armstrong later said.
In March 1983, in court, Justice Sean Gannon gave them suspended sentences for manslaughter and allowed the five to walk free. “This,” he said, “could never be regarded as murder.”
The ruling caused outrage – as did the judge’s comments that the so-called vigilantes were “cleaning up the area” – and became the catalyst for Ireland’s fledgling gay rights movement, leading to the foundation of the main gay organisations in the Republic of Ireland.
Outraged, hundreds from the gay community, the unions and supporters marched from Dublin city centre to Dublin’s Fairview Park.
Said Senator David Norris, who was pivotal, along with other people, in the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland: “I knew Declan quite well. He was a lovely person, shy and kind. His tragic death really was a turning point. It was significant because it got the whole community out together. People were revolted by the sentencing. There was solidarity amongst people against what had happened to Declan. It really was an early manifestation of support for gay rights.”