Tributes have poured in for veteran gay rights campaigner PA Mag Lochlainn following his death yesterday.
Mr Mag Lochlainn, who was from Dungiven, Co Londonderry, but lived in south Belfast, had been president of the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association (NIGRA) for many years and was one of 100 people to take part in the first Belfast Pride parade in 1991. The activist, who was single and in his 60s, suffered kidney problems and had been unwell for the past few weeks.
NIGRA treasurer Jeffrey Dudgeon, who fought to have homosexuality decriminalised in Northern Ireland 30 years ago, said his friend will be missed.
“PA was the person who put his head above the parapet for longer than anyone else,” Mr Dudgeon said. “He had immense courage in that respect. He was a very caring, amazing and formative individual and it was good to be in his company. He was loved by all ages and types of people in the gay community. He dedicated himself to gay rights.”
John O’Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project, said: “PA was a leader in the LGBT community for decades. His contribution, while sorely missed, will never be forgotten. He did so much.
“He was a founding member of Belfast Pride and was actively involved in working with the police too.
“He was involved with every aspect of LGBT life at some point in his life.”
A statement from the Cara-friend LGBT group said: “PA’s years of hard work, dedication and vision to Cara-friend have been absolutely invaluable. He has been a friend and mentor to many of us and his loss to us all is profound and felt deeply.”
PA, a former languages teacher in Omagh, embraced the colourful spirit of the annual Belfast Pride march and each year could be spotted in fancy dress on his mobility scooter among the thousands of participants.
He was also politically active as a member of the SDLP. Party leader Alasdair McDonnell MP said: “I want to express my personal deep sadness at the passing of my friend PA. I wish to extend my sympathy to PA's partner Barry and the wider Mag Lochlainn family.”
The campaigner’s funeral is expected to take place in Dungiven on a date to be announced.