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The Michael Barron Papers

An introduction to the collection by Dr Michael Barron, Social Justice Advocate

Friday, 21 June 2024
BeLonG To Yes Campaign for Marriage Equality on O'Connell Street

BeLonG To Yes Campaign for Marriage Equality on O'Connell Street

I am delighted that the National Library of Ireland has made available a body of work which tracks my life and work as a social justice activist over the past number of decades.

I am particularly happy that they have chosen to announce the availability of ‘The Michael Barron Papers’ during LGBTQ+ Pride Month. As a Queer person and activist, I have spent most of my life advocating for Queer Liberation and much of this work is now available at the National Library.

This year is also the 21st birthday of BeLonG To, the LGBTQ+ youth advocacy organisation, which I co-founded, so making these papers available is a kind of coming of age for us all.

The papers, which are available in person at the Library and through their digital archive which now contains the website Michael Barron, is a varied collection of research, toolkits, personal writing, newspaper articles, opinion pieces, campaign strategy, planning notes and reflections and ephemeral materials such as bags and badges.

While the story of social change in Ireland is often told through landmark events, these materials also tell a story of what happened between such events. They speak of the work and long term strategy that created the conditions that enabled the big events to take place. They tell an untold story of the pursuit of Equality for LGBTQ+ young people over decades, and how this work in turn changed Ireland for all LGBTQ+ people.

I share these papers on the basis that they can be useful. This position - ‘Above All, Be Useful’ - has always guided my approach to social justice and I hope these papers will be useful to researchers, students and anyone interested in activism for social justice.

As we live in uncertain times we need opportunities for intergenerational learning, and we need the hope that springs from knowing that this is not the first time we have faced many of today’s challenges.

Michael Barron and Jaime Nanci kiss during the Marriage Equality Count

Michael Barron and husband Jaime Nanci at RDS Count Centre Dublin for counting of votes in successful Marriage Equality Campaign, May 2015. © Charles McGuinlan

The materials relating to my time advocating for LGBTQ+ young people at BeLonG To (2003-2015) talk to how we changed the public narrative and public policy towards LGBTQ+ young people in Ireland. The materials here detail the strategies used to change how LGBTQ+ young people felt about themselves, and in order to do this, how we set about changing how Ireland treated LGBTQ+ young people. This includes materials from multiple campaigns, including Aoife Kelleher’s TV documentary Growing Up Gay (2010) which brought the lives of Queer youth into most living rooms in the country, and the BeLonG To Yes campaign for Marriage Equality which invited the country to ‘Change forever what it means to grow up LGBTQ+ in Ireland.´


Michael Barron with President and Dr McAleese

Michael Barron with President and Dr McAleese during BeLonG To Yes Campaign for Marriage Equality

Also included in the archive is a catalogue of our engagement with the government during this time and how LGBTQ+ young people went from being unmentionable in public policy to being placed front and centre in too many policies to mention.

They also tell a story of the movement for the separation of church and state in Ireland during the first two decades of the 21st Century. Much of this work is captured in the ‘EQUATE’ section of the papers. EQUATE was an organisation I ran with a great team to increase access to and equality of experience in Irish schools, where the vast majority are maintained by Christian groups. Here you will find an array of campaign materials about the successful removal of the Baptism Barrier from most Irish schools (whereby religious schools could exclude children who were not of that religion). This includes campaign and communication strategies, notes from meetings with government, research, opinion polls and conferences.

Michael Barron and Minister Richard Bruton

Michael Barron and Minister Richard Bruton at announcement of the intention to tackle the Baptism Barrier 2017

The intersection of Church and State, when it came to both LGBTQ+ young people and when it came to school, was often an unwelcoming space for a social justice advocate. As such ,there is a particular focus on how to achieve social change within hostile environments.

It’s been a huge privilege to work with so many extraordinary people during the period covered in these papers - with young people who navigated the world with such grace and with fellow activists who fought the good fight. We have so much more to do, and I really hope these papers will be useful in our ongoing battle for liberation for all.

Michael Barron
Dr Michael Barron
Social Justice Advocate

Michael works in Ireland and internationally to promote the rights of communities pushed to the margins of societies. In Ireland he was the Founding Director of BeLonG To LGBT Organisation and EQUATE: Equality in Education and today is the Executive Director of The Rowan Trust, an international human rights foundation.