Ireland's first LGBTQ+ female Mayor was Mullingar's Ruth
National media claims that Ireland has just seen its first female LGBTQ+ mayor elected are wrong: the first openly gay female to hold the role of mayor in this country was Ruth Illingworth, who was mayor of Mullingar as far back as 2009.
Ruth - who was a Fine Gael member of Mullingar Town Commission when selected – made headlines at the time.
At the weekend however, stories were published declaring that South Dublin County Council's new mayor, Fianna Fáil councillor Emma Murphy was Ireland's first female LGBTQ+ mayor.
“I was definitely the first female mayor, there's no doubt about that, except I accept South Dublin is a rather larger authority,” says Ruth, a writer and historian.
While Ruth may have been the first LGBTQ+ female to hold the office of mayor, she believes she was not the first gay person to do so: “I had this debate with (former Donegal councillor) Tiernan Brady because I think he may have been the actually the first out mayor because he was mayor of Bundoran,” she says.
Ruth's election came at a time when LGBTQ+ rights were less advanced than they are now: “I think it probably was a bit groundbreaking because while things have obviously advanced quite a lot, we were still talking then about civil partnership: marriage wasn't even kind of on the horizon at that stage and it was still the case that a lot of LGBTQ+ people were keeping their heads down.”
Ruth admits that her coming out wasn't a bad experience: “I can't really think of any kind of negative comment I got – ever.
“I think quite a few of particularly the younger county councillors thought, 'so what? Why is this an issue?' I don't remember any negativity. about it at all.
“And we're now at the stage where this month, Mullingar will have its first ever LGBTQ+ Pride Parade, which is something I honestly thought I would never see in Mullingar. But hopefully we'll have a nice nice weather and it'll be a great success. It'll be a small event, but it'll be it's a start.”
Even on the doorsteps, while canvassing, Ruth encountered no difficulties.
“I mean, there were possibly people who weren't happy about it, but you know, they didn't they didn't say anything. I know even during the marriage equality referendum, we had one or two incidents of people who were hostile but most people, even if they disagreed with you were courteous and that that was important.”