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Digital Subscriptions > GCN > 343 > MARTYR IN THE PARK

MARTYR IN THE PARK

One unseasonably warm evening in September 1982, ‘The Rollers’ had one aim: to rid Fairview Park of “steamers”. Their crusade ended in a brutal murder that would change gay Ireland forever.

Temperatures languished in the high teens in the early hours of Friday September 10, 1982. It was unseasonably warm. While 32 year-old, dark-haired, stocky, Declan Flynn chatted to his friend Leigh Arundale in the Italian owned Fairview Grill, across in the park a gang of local youths – Robert Armstrong, 18; Anthony Maher, 18; Colm Donovan, 17; Patrick Kavanagh, 18 and a 14 year-old minor, who for legal reasons cannot be named – policed the tree-lined pathway parallel to the street. Their self-imposed remit... to rid Fairview Park of queers.

Photographs by Derek Spiers

“ A few of the gang claimed they had bashed “twenty steamers” in the weeks leading up to September 10th. Their first attack on that tragic night failed.

This Dublin neighbourhood gang, known as The Rollers, had patrolled the park for a period of about six weeks, and claimed to have cleared 150 homosexuals from the area since the previous summer. Their modus operandi involved hiding behind trees while one of the group sat on a nearby bench in an isolated area, waiting to be approached.

A few of the gang claimed they had bashed “twenty steamers” in the weeks leading up to September 10. Their first attack on that tragic night failed. That potential victim was armed with a knife and when they chased him he escaped, running on to North Strand Road. Their second victim, Declan Flynn wasn’t so well prepared or lucky.

Patrick Kavanagh, a former junior Dublin GAA player, sat as bait on the bench. The others hid behind trees with sticks, broken from the low branches of nearby trees. The gang alleged Declan Flynn sat down on the bench beside Patrick Kavanagh. Later while giving evidence, the 14 year-old claimed Flynn “put his hands on the fellow’s (Kavanagh’s) privates”. He also added: “I couldn’t see too clearly because it was so dark”. Robert Armstrong claimed he saw the two begin to scuffle and Kavanagh shouted, “Get the bastard!” Declan Flynn ran across the grass towards the lit roadway. Ten yards from the roadway, opposite the still open Fairview Grill, one of the gang tripped Flynn up and set upon him, beating him with sticks, kicking him in the head, back and stomach until, according to the 14 year-old, someone shouted, “Scatter!” The gang split up and left a mortally wounded Declan Flynn lying on his side.

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It’s our bumper Pride issue and we’ve got so much in store for you, we hardly know where to start! First up on our cover are the gorgeous Glória, Dublin’s lesbian and gay choir and star donators to our GCN30 exhibition Fundit campaign, who talk to us about being one great big alternative family. It’s appropriate, since the Dublin Pride theme this year is ‘We Are Family’ and in keeping we talk to groups of friends who consider each other kin, while Justin McAleese talks about our need for solidarity as the Pope’s visit to the World Meeting on Families excludes LGBT families. We remember the tragic murder of Declan Flynn, which sparked the first gay rights march in Ireland, and reflect on the situation facing LGBTs in Latin America, where brutal murders take place every day. We get educated on Intersex issues and talk to Minister Katherine Zappone about the governments LGBTI+ Youth Strategy, the first of it’s kind in the world. Plus Rupert Everett talks to us about his love for Oscar Wilde and growing older as a totally out actor. And that’s just the beginning of what’s on offer. Get reading now!
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