Lisa Daly, Chairperson of Limerick Pride pictured above. Picture: Richard Lynch/ilovelimerick
Limerick and Proud by Lisa Daly, Chairperson of Limerick Pride
My name is Lisa Daly, I am the current Chairperson and Festival Director of the Limerick Pride festival. This is my story.
Growing up Gay in Limerick
I was born and raised in Moyross, Limerick. I believe my love for Limerick began at an early age. My grandmother would take me to King John’s Castle, we would go on walks around the city, while she showed me the sites, talked to me about the history and told me old stories. This taught me to look at the beauty around us in our city, even the little details that we overlook that are still there to this day.
This was during the dark times when Limerick had the reputation of being known as “Stab City” which was a term I was familiar with from an early age. I didn’t like Limerick being described like that and was passionate about changing people’s minds about their view of Limerick. I knew I wanted people to see the beauty of the city, the heart of the community and why Limerick is a true lady.
I first told my family and friends I was lesbian at 17 years old in 1999, Limerick was a very different place to what you see now in terms of LGBTQ+ culture.
Some members of the public at the time did struggle to understand my coming out, which resulted in me being ashamed of who I was too.
I was the same person I always was but others around me changed who they were once I came out. What gave people the right to judge me on my sexuality, what business was it to others who I dated and chose to love?
This created a division with people I cared deeply about for many, many years and even though this made me sad I stood my ground and continued to be me.
Since a young age I realised I was always passionate about human equality and animal rights, I always stood up to speak my mind on things I didn’t agree with. This I believe, gave me the inner strength to realise I had my own life to live. If people couldn’t accept me as I am, then I couldn’t accept being unhappy just to keep others happy.
This is something to this day I still stand proudly by, because my no nonsense attitude eventually brought each person back into my life over the years as they realised I was the same person. Who I dated wasn’t affecting them and that most importantly they realised that they loved and missed me.
These same people have been a great support to me with everything since then. My sisters in particular accepted and stood by me from the moment I said the words I am gay, they were never ashamed of me but always stood up and supported me throughout all the struggles throughout the years.
Becoming Miss Gay Limerick
Shortly before my younger sister Gemma committed suicide back in May 2011, she had heard about the Ms Gay Limerick competition and asked to me to enter as she really believed that I could win it. She also said she believed I could make an impact on Limerick as a city plus she believed I could show everyone that being part of the LGBTQI community was nothing to be ashamed of, that I was no different to anyone else. I was so touched by her belief and support in me but my response at the time was that I laughed and said I would never enter it. I felt it wasn’t for me, at the time I looked at it as just a pageant and just involved going on a stage.
In the summer of 2013 I was contacted by two other counties to enter their Ms Gay competition and was told the winner would then go on to represent that county in the national final. I refused as I felt it wasn’t for me. Shortly after I was contacted to enter Ms Gay Limerick. Initially I refused again but then my sisters spoke with me about giving it a go and doing it for Gemma. That moment made me really think it was the right thing to do and convinced me that if I was to enter a Ms Gay competition then it should only be for my beloved hometown Limerick, as I have always been a proud Limerick woman.
The competition took place in September 2013. I did not believe even for a second that I even had a chance of winning but felt that no matter what I had already won because to me it wasn’t about the title, it was about taking part and taking ownership of who I was. It was about walking onstage and speaking on the microphone, being honest and to just be myself.
I wanted to do it for my sisters and in memory of my sister Gemma, even though I didn’t make this public knowledge at the time. The support I received on the night was just incredible and I was honestly blown away by it. To my shock, I won on the night! I couldn’t believe it!
The Mr Gay Ireland competition was always treated with more importance than Ms Gay Ireland and I remember asking shortly after I won what happens now? I was told not to worry and to just focus on the finals. This is the moment I believe changed everything. I could not accept this, I didn’t want to be a Ms Gay that just simply put on a sash and smile for the cameras with nothing to say. I was expected to just turn up at the national final where the overall winner would win funds for their chosen charity.
I decided from that moment I wanted to hold a fundraiser and give something back regardless if I won the finals or not. My chosen charity CSPP Suicide Prevention Limerick who monitor the four bridges of the River Shannon in Limerick City, looking to help those that might be in distress or contemplating suicide. The organisation had just been set up and the city badly needed their services and they needed funds for more volunteer uniforms. Mental health and suicide had become a huge part of my life by this point as I witnessed it first hand, losing four family members through suicide and losing three of them in less than 22 months of each other, along with friends throughout the years.
At the national final I won the title ‘Ms Popular’ which is judged by online votes, with over half the overall online votes going to me. I also won ‘Best Interview’, ‘Miss Congeniality’ and the overall runner up.
My journey with Limerick Pride
I wanted to take my role as Ms Gay Limerick seriously. I wanted to represent my beloved city at a national level so I attended the Limerick Pride AGM that same year where I was elected as one of the event coordinators which was also the year of Limerick being the City Of Culture in 2014.
I was very inexperienced at the time but something I did know was that I had passion, drive and wanted to help in any way I could to make Limerick stand out and show it’s true beauty and in all its beautiful colours.
I first became the Chairperson of Limerick Pride two weeks before Limerick Pride 2015 due to the Chairperson who had taken the role for that year not being able to fulfill his duties due to personal reasons. It was a trial by fire but I learned a lot and it made me feel even more passionate about making even more of an impact the following year.
I was elected to my first full term as Chairperson for Limerick Pride 2016. Following Pride 2016 I stepped back from the Chairperson role and went back to college to study TV & Film with Event Management. During my study year, I was given the task to be the Event Coordinator for the upcoming graduation event of my college. I was also given the role of Event Coordinator for the annual college fundraising event which broke all previous fundraising records by double the amount. All the proceeds from that event were donated to another charity I am very passionate about, Limerick Marine Search and Rescue.
In 2017 I came back on to the Limerick Pride committee as Event Coordinator while also at college studying Business with Event Management. Six weeks before Pride 2018 was to begin I was re-elected to the Chairperson role and felt it was the best role suited to my talents and abilities.
Over the years I have gained great knowledge of pride and of LGBTQI culture. I have improved my skills in many ways through college, friends and self-learning. Communication, non-judgement, good relationships, hard work, listening to as many views from all the community as possible and standing by your word, I have found to be attributes which are key. I have always held the belief that once the drive and passion are there nothing is impossible. Since then I have been the Chairperson and now Festival Director of Limerick Pride and have relished the role.
I first got involved in Limerick Pride because I wanted to help in any way that I could to promote Limerick in terms of its LGBTQ+ community. I learned so about LGBT culture and realised how important Pride is to so many people and that’s why Pride needs to continue each year. Pride gives people a safe place to enjoy their family and friends so they can truly be themselves. Hearing so many different types of peoples LGBTQ+ life stories along the way has encouraged me to make sure Pride is always a success.
Over the years I became much more passionate and protective of Limerick Pride and it’s now become a part of me. I’ve made some amazing friends along the way who have been a great support. Limerick as an overall community makes me proud, this year’s Virtual pride proved that again to me. It had never been done before and was new to all of us involved and I was personally humbled by the community support we received.
What Pride is to me
Pride is many things to everyone, it’s a Festival and weeklong community event that many enjoy while also mainly a peaceful protest that shows our diversity. It’s the one time of year where the LGBT+ community can be surrounded by the family we choose.
Pride first and foremost will always be a protest for full equal human rights for all LGBTQ+ people living in Ireland. It’s a protest of solidarity with other countries who unfortunately don’t have the same rights as us in Ireland and who are discriminated against for being part of the community. For example, with what is happening to the LGBTQ+ community in Poland. It is very upsetting to watch the community fighting for their very existence. I admire each human being who fights for their rights in such a scary time, that to me is the true meaning of Pride. We must all stand in solidarity with each other.
We remember and respect those who paved the way at the beginning at Stonewall and the trailblazers since who have progressed the journey of our community.
What I have learned from my journey
The most important thing I believe I have learnt along the way has been self-belief, as I feel I had underestimated myself for so long, always believing that someone else would be better for the role, that I wasn’t the person. I have learned to always listen to others even if you might not always agree as differing opinions are also very important so you can see the bigger picture. I now follow my gut instinct with things. I’ve learnt how to be more patient, more understanding towards issues and how to self-motivate even when having a bad day.
I battle my anxiety and don’t want to face certain things that challenge my self-esteem such as having my photo taken or making a speech but I do it and push past the nerves as I see the bigger picture. I’ve learnt that I am an activist at heart who is passionate about human equality.
I have made good relationships with the overall community which has enabled me to make many allies on both a local and national level who have helped and believed in me along the journey. This has helped me grow personally in many ways. Lisa daly
My love for events grew stronger each time I pulled one off and I have worked on my skill set and have taken many online classes and courses throughout the years including business, filming, event production, stage production, sound and lighting, editing, children first protection and youth leadership.
Most events that I am involved with I try to do as a fundraiser as I think it’s very important to give back wherever possible. Funds raised over the years have been donated to Limerick Pride, CSPP Suicide Prevention Limerick, GOSHH, Midwest Simon Community, Limerick Marine Search & Rescue, Pieta house, Limerick Animal Welfare and various LGBTIQA services providers. I am also a volunteer coordinator with the Special Olympics since 2014 and a have volunteered as a Suicide Prevention counsellor with The Haven Hub, a mental health support group since October 2019, when the organisation began. I was a coordinator for the World BBQ Championship which was held in Limerick. I am also a volunteer with Limerick City County Council and have been involved with St Patrick’s Day, Riverfest, Culture Night and Open House.
Anytime I’m asked this question I’ve always found it difficult to answer for many reasons. With everything that has happened in my lifetime with people who mean the world to me dying so young, then becoming homeless myself afterwards, I have learned to appreciate each day and not take it for granted, but obviously we all have to think ahead too. So for my future, I now know my passions are activism, events and anything that helps to promote and grow Limerick. The overall dream with events would be to manage my own company one day. I would also like to work more with the youths of Limerick, to hear their own opinions about the future of our mighty treaty city. Lisa daly
The other side of me has in the last number of years has been pulled towards politics for a lot of reasons, to try help make a difference on many issues within the city, listening to the communities views and then being their voice, while also showcasing Limericks beauty as a city and county. Lisa daly Lisa daly Lisa daly Lisa daly Lisa daly
I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, for now I will continue in this journey of life with the knowledge that each struggle I have faced or will face in the future, is there to challenge and teach me to be a better version of who I was yesterday.
The future of Limerick Pride
In terms of the future of Pride I would like to see Ireland update their laws regarding all LGBT+ matters. People believe since Marriage Equality and the Parental Bill were signed into law that the LGBT+ community has now full rights in Ireland and this is unfortunately not the case for many LGBT+ matters. Lisa daly
I would love my daughter and other kids to grow up in a world where she never has to explain herself to anyone, that they’re comfortable and safe enough to always be themselves. The dream would be that Prides all over the world would become 100% safe zones proudly displaying our diversity and celebrated and supported by our allies.
Limerick Pride became a member of Euro Pride in 2019, so Limerick now communicates with pride organisations from across the globe. We have already begun talks with youth groups about forming a sub youth Pride committee in order to hear the voices of our youth. At the Ireland Pride network conference hosted by the European Pride Organisers Association held in Carlow in this past January, Limerick Pride received huge positive feedback and Limerick was picked by 8 out of 10 Prides for being the most memorable Pride moment. There were many reasons but some mentioned it as warm, welcoming, friendly, fun, very family friendly with people of all ages attending the Parade.
My goal is to get people from across Ireland and beyond to visit and enjoy what Limerick has to offer.
Pride is also about a Limerick community celebration. Seeing the joy on the faces of people of all ages from babies to the elderly attending the day and having my own family members attend showing how proud they are of me is a huge source of joy for me. Each year without fail, I always have a moment during the march to look to the sky to thank Gemma and I hope she is proud.
For more stories about Limerick Pride go HERE
For more info on Pride go HERE