Pioneering Northern Irish activist behind historic ‘Save Sodomy from Ulster’ campaign dies from coronavirus

Tarlach MacNiallais gay rights disability rights coronavirus

Northern Irish LGBT+ and disability rights activist Tarlach MacNiallais has died from coronavirus complications in New York City.

MacNiallais died on April 1 from coronavirus, his family and friends said. He was 57-years-old.

He was a force to be reckoned with and fought tirelessly for gay and disability rights throughout his life.

MacNiallais was well known in LGBT+ circles in New York, where he was an organiser of the St Pat’s for All Parade in Queen’s, according to The New York Times.

The annual parade was originally set up in protest against archaic rules that banned LGBT+ groups from participating in New York’s St Patrick’s Day parade, but had become a staple of activism in Queen’s.

Tarlach MacNiallais, staunch LGBT+ and disability rights advocate, died from coronavirus earlier this month.

Harriet Golden, vice president at AHRC New York City, a disability support organisation where MacNiallais worked, said he was “a battering ram on issues of importance”.

MacNiallais was born in Belfast in 1962 as the tenth of 11 children. He was named Terence Nellis but later adopted the Irish-language version of his name.

During his time at university he became well known for his protests against British imperialism and his advocacy for gay rights.

He had a moment in the spotlight when Christian activists in Northern Ireland started the “Save Ulster From Sodomy” campaign, which sought to keep gay sex as a punishable offence in the territory.

He spent much of his life fighting for LGBT+ groups to march in the New York City St Patrick’s Day parade.

MacNiallais helped start a counter-campaign called “Save Sodomy From Ulster” to draw attention to the issues facing gay men in Northern Ireland.

He moved to New York in the mid-1980s and later became involved with the campaign to allow LGBT+ groups participate in the city’s annual St Patrick’s Day parade.

That ban was finally dropped in 2014 and MacNiallais went on to serve on the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade formation committee. In 2016, he marched in that parade with the Lavender and Green Alliance.

He reportedly died in a New York City hospital while a nurse read text messages from loved ones.

The gay rights and disability rights activist is survived by his husband Juan Nepomuceno, as well as nine siblings and three stepchildren.