The National Library of Ireland has acquired the personal papers of Irish priest Fr. Bernárd Lynch, a renowned HIV/AIDS activist in New York. 

Fr. Bernárd Lynch was born in Ennis, Co Clare in 1947 and was ordained a priest in 1971. He went on to dedicate his life to advocating for the LGBTQ+ community in New York and London. 

He rose to prominence during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and worked with communities directly affected by the crisis. 

Lynch, who is now 75, also successfully campaigned for the introduction of non-discriminatory legislation in New York following the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic. 

The collection of personal papers recently acquired by the National Library of Ireland consists of letters, postcards, newspaper clippings, and legal testimonies spanning more than 50 years that paint a picture of Lynch's private and public life. 

Last week, the @NLIreland announced the acquisition of the personal papers of the renowned HIV/AIDS activist and former priest, Fr Bernárd Lynch.

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— National Library of Ireland (@NLIreland) December 5, 2022

The archive includes several letters from people in Ireland struggling with their sexuality during the 1980s, some of whom were living with HIV/AIDS. 

It also includes transcripts and a lie detector test from Lynch's trial in New York, when he was falsely accused of sexual assault. 

The archive also includes personal letters from Lynch to his family in Clare when he came out as a gay man in the early 1980s. 

Lynch became the first Catholic priest in the world to have a civil partnership in 2006. He later married his long-term boyfriend Billy Desmond in 2017 following Ireland's vote to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015. 

Speaking at an event to mark the acquisition, Acting Director of the NLI, Katherine McSharry, said: “It is an incredible honour for the National Library of Ireland to receive the Fr Bernárd Lynch Collection, which offers us remarkable insight into a time – all too recent -  when the LGBTI+ community were marginalised and discriminated against.

"The archive is a powerful reminder of those days, and of the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the LGBTI+ community both in New York and Ireland.
“Having spent most of his adult life in New York and London, Fr Bernárd Lynch has made an indelible mark on the world, while maintaining his Irish connections as a prominent member of our diaspora.

"The National Library is committed to collecting and safeguarding Ireland’s many voices and diverse experiences. As Ireland’s memory-keeper, we are proud to add this archive to our extensive LGBTI+ collections, so that these stories can be shared and studied by all.”

Lynch, who traveled from London to be present at the NLI acquisition event in November, said he hopes the archive will become a useful reference point for researchers and inspire people looking for hope. 

"It is an honor for me to bring my archive home to Ireland, and I cannot be more grateful to the National Library for their diligence and commitment to making this record accessible for generations to come," Lynch said.