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Death of Northern Ireland gay rights veteran is ‘sad loss to all’

Death of Northern Ireland gay rights veteran is ‘sad loss to all’

A trailblazing gay rights activist from Northern Ireland has died in hospital after suffering from long-term illness.

PA Maglochlainn had been president of the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association (NIGRA) and helped organize Belfast’s gay pride since the very beginning in 1991.

The 66-year-old died yesterday (15 November) following several weeks in hospital due to a deteriorating, long-term kidney problem that caused his early retirement from teaching. He was unable to get a transplant.

NIGRA released a statement on its website, calling his death ‘a sad loss to all of us’.

NIGRA treasurer Jeff Dudgeon, who fought to have homosexuality decriminalised in Northern Ireland 30 years ago, told Gay Star News: ‘PA was the person who put his head above the parapet for longer than anyone else.

‘He went to everything and was on every committee, even if he fell asleep sometimes.

‘He was a fixture and someone for younger people to turn to as well. He had all the knowledge and experience. He was quite eccentric but he was a former teacher so tended to educate.’

Fellow campaigner and teacher Stephen Birkett said Northern Ireland had ‘lost one of it’s most tireless campaigners.’

He said: ‘I first knew him as an enthusiastic teacher at Christian Brothers, Omagh when we were both on a trip to Poland with our pupils in 1979 but when he left teaching he took to gay rights with the same fervour. He did an incredible amount of work.

‘Older LGBT will remember him tirelessly espousing LGBT rights in the media, younger people will know him for his extraordinary costumes at pride as he trundled along the parade in his mobility scooter.’

Last year, Maglochlainn was honored with a Belfast Pride Award for his contribution to the gay rights movement.

Presenting the accolade, Dudgeon called the late activist an ‘outspoken’, ‘eccentric’ campaigner with a ‘huge personality’ and the ‘Forrest Gump of Northern Ireland gay politics’.

A remembrance service will be at O’Kane’s funeral parlour in Donegall St held today (15 November) from 3pm for people to pay their respects.

The funeral in Dungiven will be held on Saturday (17 November) at 10am.