Club aiming to smash prejudice against gay boxers
Boxing has traditionally been a sport with a very macho reputation, but one Dublin club are set to fight prejudice with a campaign to welcome LGBT boxers.
Esker Boxing Club could become the first Irish club to openly welcome gay, straight and transgender members with its Out Straight campaign.
The group, currently based part-time in a Lucan school, are fundraising to raise around €300,000 to open the doors to a new clubhouse in Lucan.
Coach Ed Griffin told the Herald the LGBT message would be at the forefront of the club's future, adding: "We are basically saying people of all orientations are welcome. Ireland is moving on from a time of stigmatising and stereotyping people.
"If the Taoiseach of this country is gay, surely anyone from the LGBT community can go into any club and be welcome.
"We have gay marriage rights, so now it's time we let everyone know they're welcome."
Ed said Big Brother star Hughie Maughan - who came out days before his appearance on the 2016 reality show - had been an "amazing" boxer.
But Hughie didn't come out while in the ring. "Hughie used to box with a club in Dublin and he was an amazing boxer," Ed said. "As far as I know, he only came out when he left boxing.
"Every boxer and every sportsman or woman should feel free to say they are gay at every club in Ireland."
The World Boxing Organisation's number two-ranked junior lightweight Orlando Cruz became one of the first boxers to come out publicly as gay in 2012. The Puerto Rican is vying to become the world's first openly gay champion.
But Ed believes there are many other highly-talented fighters hiding who they are because they are not sure their sport would accept them.
"The sporting world can't keep burying its head in the sand. Gay or straight, we are all the same and if you can box, you can box," he said.
Ed, who works alongside fellow coaches Mick Kelly, Eileen Toohey and Paschal Joyce, wants to now bring the Out Straight idea to Dublin City Council, Sport Ireland and to local councils across the country.
His vision is to see the initiative rolled out in rugby, football, soccer and other sports.
The 43-year-old said he would teach his five-year-old daughter, Molly, to respect everyone regardless of their sexuality or background.
He believes the next generation will have a much better attitude towards the LGBT community in general.
"We still have a way to go," he said. "This campaign could help bring us further along to being a more inclusive society."
The group have been given the green light to build a new clubhouse in Lucan at Mount Bellew Way, but they have a massive amount of fundraising to do. They have around 80 members, boys and girls from the age of five up to adults of 30 and above.