The opening run of "A Queer Céilí" is a barnstorming performance bringing back to life those heady days when change and revolution were in the air.

Angela Moore, backbone of everything truly great in Irish America and whose first batch from her new whiskey distillery in Virginia comes on the market in November, reminded me recently that "you've got to tell it to sell it." 

Fortunately, we Irish have a head start in that field given our proclivity to spinning a good yarn.

One such yarn reached the stage this week when the famed, Belfast-based Kabosh Theatre Company staged a new play inspired by a 1983 student gay rights conference in Queen's University Belfast.

Forbidden by the union big-wigs from discussing the national question, the students, who had been besieged by DUP-spawned Save Ulster from Sodomy protesters, took up an offer to hear more about the nationalist experience by attending a céilí in their honor in the republican Marty Forsythe Club in West Belfast. 

Kabosh Theatre returned to the Marty Forsythe clubhouse — now named Trinity Lodge — this week for the opening run of A Queer Céilí where their barnstorming performance brought back to life those heady days when change and revolution were in the air. When "poofs, perverts and Paddies", as playwright Dominic Montague provocatively puts it, discovered that, despite the culture clash, their struggles had much in common.

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Interestingly, at Friday night's performance, much of the eighties anti-LGBT invective from press and pulpit revived at the Marty Forsythe elicited giggles rather than gasps from the audience — many of whom had lived through those tumultuous times. Which probably tells you all you really need to know about how far Belfast has traveled.

We live in changed, more tolerant times where young people, in particular, as I found at a recent dialogue with the students of Methody College in Belfast, are generally aghast at the continuing restrictions on same-sex marriage in the North of Ireland — especially at a time when we're told no differences between the 'province' and 'the mainland' can be countenanced even if it leads to Brexit economic Armageddon! 

So, Bravo, Kabosh and the marvelous cast of A Queer Céilí (main image, Simon Sweeney, Chris Grant, Paula Carson, Brendan Quinn) and long may we tell the stories of our oft-closeted past so that we can sell our vision of a brighter future.

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is a media publisher and MLA in the Stormont Assembly and was Minister of Finance in the North of Ireland when the political institutions collapsed in January 2017. You can follow him on Twitter or Instagram

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