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Monday, 8th July 2024

Drogheda Pride the target for a tirade of homophobic abuse and slurs

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By Andy Spearman

Last week a notice published on Drogheda Life about the forthcoming Drogheda Pride Festival was met with an avalanche of hateful and homophobic abuse and slurs on social media platforms.

Everyone remembers the outpouring of joy and love when, in May 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to approve same-sex marriage. Of the 60 percent of the eligible population who voted, 62% gave the thumbs up to changing the law while only 38% voted No.

I don’t often look at social media at weekends because they are a time for relaxation and enjoyment, for spending time with family and friends. But yesterday I received a text from a friend alerting me to the hundreds of vile comments appearing on Facebook.

Perhaps I’m naïve, but I couldn’t get over the depth of animosity and abuse in the comments. The raw hatred was frightening and only lightened somewhat by some very funny spelling and grammatical errors.

This morning I chatted with my friend Peter James Nugent who is the main organiser of Drogheda Pride Festival and, while I knew that homophobic taunts are nothing new to him, I was shocked when he told me about the extent of the vitriolic abuse that he and other openly gay people contend with on a daily basis.

“People are vicious, even to my face” Peter James said, “but on social media it is rampant, people think they can say what they like. I’m thick-skinned and I’ve sort of learned how to deal with it, but it is still very hurtful.”

For people struggling to come to terms with their sexuality however, the anti-gay hate speech must be much more difficult to handle.

Peter James says that he and his committee have helped over 7,000 people with various issues relating to such aspects as coming out as gay or doubts about how they are feeling towards friends of the same gender. Parents are often the first to make contact because they can see the turmoil that their sons or daughters are experiencing in their relationships.

“It’s the main reason for Pride” he says. “Our message is that we value diversity and equality and we want everyone to be accepted and treated equally. I don’t think it’s a lot to ask to be honest.”

He also pointed out that there is very little official support when it comes to funding.

“Apart from one or two exceptions, local businesses don’t want to know. They can’t see the advantages of Pride and neither do our local representatives.

“I approached all of our Councillors for financial help with Pride but Joanna Byrne was the only one that gave us any funding. The rest obviously didn’t want to know.”

The one positive aspect to come from the flood of hatred on social media was that there were also many positive comments. The article received a huge readership, almost 63,000 people saw the Facebook post and 11,000 clicked through to read the full article on Drogheda Life.

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