Magnus Hirschfeld Awards Honours Supporters of Gay Community
The Magnus Hirschfeld Award, which is given each year in recognition of service to the gay community in Ireland, was presented to Marie Seligman and Fr Bernard Lynch last month.
Marie Seligman was well-known for the many gatherings she hosted in her home in Rathmines, at a time when gay people had few spaces for themselves in the late 60's and early 70's. Fr Bernard Lynch made a strong impression on thousands of television viewers - helping the level of understanding of gay people in Ireland in the process - when he described his work for AIDS sufferers in New York over the last few years.
The awards were presented on behalf of the Gay National Federation by N.G.F. President Tonie Walsh, at a ceremony in the Clarence Hotel in Dublin on February 13th. Describing Marie Seligman's help to the gay community, he said: "Years ago, when there were no support systems for gay people, no Hirschfeld Centre, and nowhere where gay people could feel comfortable with themselves, she threw open the doors of her house to them. She gave gay people support as a friend, and as a counsellor, and even earned herself the title of 'the Fairy Godmother'."
Accepting the award, Marie Seligman said that she had thoroughly enjoyed the many wonderful times there had been in her house, and that they were the happiest days of her life.
Fr Bernard Lynch, who is originally from Ennis in Co Clare, also expressed his thanks for the award. "It's not lightly that a person chooses to oppose their church or society," he said. "It's far more appealing to be loved and respected by our compatriots than to be ostracised and alienated by them. There are moments in life which made it worthwhile, and this in one of them."
"I am grateful and happy to receive this award. It has always been my profound wish to do for my own Irish people what I have worked on for the gay and lesbian community in New York."
"It would be my dream that human rights for the gay community would come about in my lifetime. We do what we do for our children. We do it for the gay and lesbian children already born who need a light telling them it's alright for them to be gay, it's God's way for them to be gay." "What we are simply saying to society is that we are you, and you are us." he went on.
"Our oppression is your oppression. In the end, it is the slave who sets the master free. Time is on the side of love. So we need to go on living and go on loving, even 'the enemy'. For the enemy even more than us needs to be set free."
Fr Lynch was recalled from New York when his work with AIDS sufferers was publicised here, and is currently on sabbatical in Rome. He was visiting Ireland in response to over 300 letters which he had received, asking him for his support in connection with the work he did on AIDS in New York. The type of work Fr Lynch is to undertake after the sabbatical year is currently under review.