'Colin found out I'm gay...and told my family'
Eamon Farrell never came out of the closet, because he was never in the closet.
It’s the typically witty response he gives when asked about his sexuality, but revealing in its simplicity too.
For as long as he can remember, Eamon has been gay.
In fact, he was so comfortable in his own skin that he forgot to tell his little brother − Hollywood star Colin Farrell. So Colin did some detective work of his own.
“Colin found a box under my bed, with a lock on it − which obviously meant break the lock! When he opened it he found copies of the Gay Times and the Gay Community News.
“He was always the little man in the family so he sat my mam and sisters down at the kitchen table when I was out and said he had something to tell them.
“When he told them that I was gay, they all said they’d known for years. He’s still disgusted that he had to find out that way, I just forgot to tell him. God knows, I’d told anyone who would listen!”
The Farrell brothers
Notwithstanding the love and support of his family, growing up gay in 1980s Ireland was not easy. And, in recent weeks, Eamon Farrell has had to come out − to the electorate, the community, and the Irish people.
Describing himself as: “a reluctant activist”, he is doing so in the hope of finally seeing his marriage to his husband, top artist Steven Mannion, recognised in Ireland. And to finally see gay people on a truly equal footing in Irish society.
The receipt of a nasty piece of anti-gay literature, anonymously delivered this week to their family home, only strengthens their resolve.
Tomorrow night, the popular Dublin couple will feature on RTE’s Claire Byrne Live, in the hope of winning hearts and minds.
“Steven has been out canvassing more than me. He has joined the Dublin Bay South Group and is loving it. This has been a very positive experience for him.
“I have been involved on the pavement canvass, and of course I have been talking to the hundreds of parents who come through our school [the National Performing Arts School] every week. It’s been mostly very positive.”
Six years ago, they wed in Canada, where full marriage rights are afforded to gay couples.
“Our Canadian marriage will be recognised automatically in Ireland if there is a ‘Yes’ vote. We do plan to have a big celebration of our wedding, and we cannot wait to renew our vows in front of friends and family. We’ve been waiting six years to do that!
“But it’s about way more than marriage rights for me. It is the first time that my country, and the citizens of Ireland get to vote on whether they think I am an equal member of their society.
Eamon gets married to Steven Mannion in Vancouver, Canada in 2009
“So many of the No Equality campaign people were against Civil Partnership, and some even favoured not decriminalising being gay in the 1990s. This is the first time our citizens can say to me, yes you belong, you are equal to everyone else.”
There have been down days. Just this week Eamon and Steven received a sinister leaflet, anonymously posted to their home, telling them: “Homosexuality is a sin that condemns to hell. Lesbianism means eternal damnation and banishment.”
It was unnerving, but Eamon has had negative experiences in the past. Last year, brother Colin (left) wrote a powerful open letter for this newspaper that went global, in which he spoke of the “daily torture” Eamon received at the hands of bullies, and that he thought it “insane” that gay people did not have equal marriage rights.
“It was incredible, but no more than the support my friends and family have shown,” says Eamon.
“His support and love as my little brother has always been without question and he would fight my corner whenever I need him, as I would his.
“I would say to people: Think of what you are voting on. You are voting on Steven and my ability to marry each other in Ireland. Nothing more and nothing less.
The talk of everything else is a distraction from what the real issue is.
“We are not looking to get married in a church, we are looking for State recognised civil marriage to give us the protections and equality which the constitution of Ireland affords all her citizens.”