Will’s regret – not telling his father he was gay

Roscommon Marriage Equality campaigner features in RTE’s ‘The Only Gay In The Village’

Living in rural Ireland can be a difficult, isolating experience. So, what is it like for a gay, lesbian or bi-sexual person growing up and coming out, in our towns and villages? Does Ireland still worry about what the neighbours say? Can you walk down the street with your partner without fear, stigma or shame and be an accepted part of the community? Is the idea of ‘the only gay in the village’ still a reality? A year on from the Marriage Equality Referendum, are the services, support and understanding there for people to be open about their sexuality in Ireland in 2016?

  The Only Gay in the Village visits Ireland’s towns and villages, hearing stories about fear, family, secrecy and honesty from people coming to terms with being themselves in their rural Irish communities.

  Roscommon farmer Will Keane (who lives in Ballymurray) came home to take over the family farm when his father died. One of Will’s biggest regrets is never telling his father he was gay. He campaigned vigorously for a Yes vote in the Marriage Equality Referendum in the only county in Ireland where the majority voted No. So, what effect did that have on Will’s place in his community?

  Shauna Keane from Banagher in Co. Offaly came out to her family at 14. Her mother’s initial reaction was one of shock. She went straight to the school to get help in finding a cure and, at the time, didn’t appreciate their more positive, practical advice. Now aged 17, Shauna prepares for her brother’s wedding, wondering what to wear and worried that all eyes will be on her when she arrives at the church. Her parents are determined that Shauna shouldn’t be just tolerated in her home parish, but welcomed.

  As a young traveller boy, waking up to his sexual identity, Oein DeBharduin sat in the corners of rooms so that he wouldn’t be noticed or bullied. Now, as an openly gay man, he works for LGB Pavee in Dublin, combatting the prejudice and discrimination that exists in pockets of the travelling community. He travels home to Tuam, in Co. Galway, to meet his father and, in a uniquely personal conversation, shares how much the silence of his community has hurt him.

  Focussing on these three individual stories, The Only Gay in the Village is also punctuated by the insights and experiences of other LGB people who contacted the programme from all over the country. We also hear from parents, who open up with courage, candour and surprising humour about their experiences. What emerges is a heartfelt, beautiful and intimate portrait of LGB life in today’s rural Ireland, where the reality is, at times, both shockingly sad and uplifting.

* The Only Gay in the Village will be broadcast on Wednesday, 9th of November at 9 pm on RTE2.