Tributes to ‘unforgettable’ gay rights campaigner

The late PA MagLochlainn.
The late PA MagLochlainn.

Poignant tributes have been paid to a prominent County Derry gay rights campaigner who passed away this week, including a heartfelt message from his younger brother who described him as “unforgettable”.

PA MagLochlainn, who died aged 67 on Wednesday, was orginially from the small rural area of Drum, outside Dungiven. He was President of the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association for many years, and taught French at CBS in Omagh.

He also volunteered with the SDLP. It is understood he was suffering from kidney failure.

Speaking to the ‘Journal’ yesterday, Nigel McLaughlin said his brother died “contented” and without pain or distress.

“Let’s just say he was an eccentric and something of a trailblazer,” said Nigel.

“PA’s work with gay rights was his calling, as such, and he has done so much good in the sense that he helped make it accepted and normal. He helped allow people to live the way they chose, just as he did himself.”

PA, one of nine children to Edith and Patrick Joseph McLaughlin, was a former pupil of Dernaflaw PS, outside Dungiven. He went on to St. Columb’s College in Derry before studying at Queen’s University, Belfast. Nigel revealed his older brother of 18 years spoke five languages and had taught for UNESCO in Poland some years ago. He also enthused about Irish and European history, and genealogy.

“I think he definitely made a difference,” said Nigel, “and I think Northern Ireland would have been a poorer place without him. He was unforgettable.”

David McCartney of the Rainbow Network said the sense of loss was palpable, and described the campaigner as tenacious and courageous.

“He was a unique character and I have never known anyone quite like him,” he said. “He was a colourful character who will be greatly missed.”

SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan expressed his deep sadness at the death of his party colleague and friend of 30 years.

“He believed passionately in education, democratic debate, respect for diversity and human rights.

“He gave a proud and distinctive contribution to the cause of gay rights and brought that same articulate understanding to challenge other prejudices and injustices as well,” said Mr. Durkan. “He was a great campaigner and he was great company. He loved humour and hated humbug. He was a democrat, an internationalist, a Christian citizen and a proudly gay, proudly Irish man who wanted to make a difference – for difference – and he did.”

The funeral of Mr. McLaughlin will take place tomorrow, leaving the family home in Drum, outside Gortnaghey, at 9.15am for 10am Mass at St. Patrick’s Chapel in Dungiven.