Northern Ireland

Oscar-winning actor James Martin starring in film about Dublin murder that galvanised gay rights movement in Ireland

James Martin and Denis Grindel star in Fairview Park
James Martin and Denis Grindel star in Fairview Park

Oscar-winning Belfast actor James Martin is starring in a film about the murder of a gay man seen as the catalyst for the LGBTQ Pride movement in Ireland.

The star of An Irish Goodbye, the first person with Down’s Syndrome to win an Academy Award, takes on the role of Greg Flynn in Fairview Park, the brother of Declan Flynn who was killed in Dublin in 1982.

The short film tells the true story of the murder of Declan (31), who was viciously attacked by a gang in Fairview Park, a common meeting place for gay men. His body was found the following morning.

Denis ? stars as Declan Flynn
Denis Grindel stars as Declan Flynn

Five teenagers were charged with his murder, but were later given suspended sentences.

Freeing the five, Judge Mr Justice Seán Gannon told the Central Criminal Court in Dublin: “One thing that has come to my mind is that there is no element of correction that is required.

“All of you come from good homes and experienced care and affection.

“While I must demonstrate the abhorrence of the community by imposing sentences, I don’t think it necessary to be served immediately by detention.”

The ruling caused public outrage and led to one of the earliest and largest demonstrations in support of gay rights on the streets of Dublin.

The team behind the film hope to “educate a new generation on how the cruel and hateful murder of Declan Flynn was a catalyst in 1980s Ireland’s gay rights movement”.

As part of the film production, cast and crew joined Declan’s family, friends and hundreds of the LGBT+ community for a memorial to mark the 40th anniversary of his death.

They captured memories that join archival images and footage of the aftermath of the murder, including the trial that galvanised the start of Ireland’s modern Pride movement.

Declan’s brother Paul spoke on behalf of his family at the memorial, where they remembered a “loving brother and son”.

“He was a quiet man. He loved pop music, and family celebrations,” he said.

“He was particularly loving to his parents and to his younger brother Greg who had Down Syndrome.

“He loved giving presents and he was in his element at Christmas when he would rarely arrive home without colourful decorations and gifts for his family.”

All five teenagers charged in connection with the killing were given suspended sentences
The film looks back on the 1982 killing

Following in-depth research for the film script with Paul Flynn, the film follows a fictional day in Declan’s life from home to work to party.

And his visit to the historically important hub of the now-demolished LGBT+ sanctuary of the Hirschfeld Centre before his fateful walk to Fairview Park.

Fairview Park in Dublin
Fairview Park in Dublin

With “authenticity....incredibly important throughout the entire process” of the film, the cast is made up of a majority of individuals of Irish heritage and several LGBTQ+ actors for the relevant roles.

Donegal-born actor Denis Grindel plays Declan and attended the 40th anniversary memorial to meet the murdered man’s family. He was joined by fellow Fairview Park actors, Derry Girls’ Amanda Hurwitz and James Martin.

James Martin stars as Greg Flynn
James Martin stars as Greg Flynn

Writer and co-director Ellie Hodgetts of the film, which it is hoped will be screened at festivals across Ireland this year, said: “It was a very emotional experience to see this story come to life, all the time with Declan Flynn and his family at the forefront of my mind.

“Having conversations with our lead actor, Denis, about who Declan was and how he might’ve felt, and us relating to him so much, was a really powerful and heart-breaking experience that I think we will carry with us for a long time.

“I want people to watch this film and be as angry as I am about the constant persecution of LGBTQ+ people across the world and to use that anger to stand up against the systems that continue to oppress us.”