The tiny coastal village of Easkey, County Sligo has “gone gay” today in hosting what is thought to be the smallest gay pride event in the world.
The local Family Resource Center of Easkey, population 250, is urging residents to “go gay” in an act of support of the local LGBT community.
The village, which is best known as a surfing and fishing town and has just two shops, two pubs, two butchers and a post office, will host a reception in its Family Resource Center followed by a shoreside barbecue.
Organizers expect around 80 people from the community to attend, all of whom will wear pins proudly stating: “gay for a day.”
The event is part of the Northwest LGBT Pride festival. In its fourth year, the festival hosts a series of events across Counties Sligo and Leitrim in acts of solidarity with rural Ireland’s gay community.
"There is a trend now in Ireland where gay people are leaving the big cities and returning to their rural roots," said 10-year Easkey resident Denise Clarke, 48.
"It is no longer a necessity to run off to Dublin or London or Manchester to 'come out'. As a society we have moved on and are more broadminded and accepting."
Clarke told Britain’s Guardian newspaper that when she first moved to the small seaside town of Easkey, she was ostracized. "People were afraid of the new lesbian in town" she said. "One woman even rang around the local farmers to warn them that their wives could be in danger. It was just a lot of fear and some ignorance, but an event like this today helps dispel those myths and brings the townfolk together."
Clarke, along with fellow Easkey gay pride coordinator Pat Hegarty, came up with the "gay for a day" slogan as a way to make heterosexual people feel comfortable about joining in on the celebrations.
"It's all about inclusiveness," said Hegarty. "It's no different to the world going Irish for the day on St. Patrick's every March."
Supportive village residents say that the gay pride event is a sign that rural Ireland is “growing up,” and is becoming more accepting as a whole of the LGBT community.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in Ireland in 1993, and discrimination based on sexual orientation is now outlawed.
The Northwest Pride festival series has attracted support from Irish politicians, community groups, businesses and locals.