‘The Wake? What of It?’: Figures of Loss in the Migrant Plays of Colm Ó Clubhán

  • Ed Madden
Part of the New Directions in Irish and Irish American Literature book series (NDIIAL)


This chapter focuses on two plays by Colm Clifford, an Irish gay migrant active in the early 1970s gay liberation movement and a founding member of the agitprop theatre group, the Brixton Faeries. Through the 1980s, he began to write plays and poetry addressing the migrant identity and belonging—especially the difficult interstitial identities of the queer ethnic migrant. His first play, Friends of Rio Rita (1985), performed for both LGBT and Irish theatre audiences in London, addressed the difficulties of being gay and Irish. As he explained in a 1985 interview, “I can list forever the oppression of Irish people living in England, yet I cannot live [as a gay man] in Ireland”—a difficult position exacerbated by the anti-Irish racism of English gay men and the anti-gay attitudes of the Irish migrant community. His second play, Reasons for Staying (1986), broadens its focus to include a woman who stayed in England after seeking an abortion and an old navvy whose friends back home have died, as well as a second-generation Irishman and his English fiancée whose perceptions of Ireland are coloured by nostalgia and tourist posters. Clifford’s work, which has failed to receive critical attention or adequate publication, is a critical intervention in representations of gender and sexuality in the Irish diaspora, and as the Irish canon of LGBT work becomes increasingly calcified, a reconsideration of his work suggests the centrality of diaspora studies to Irish queer studies—and the necessity of queer studies to Irish diaspora studies.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ed Madden
    • 1
  1. 1.University of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

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