Book draws on a Cork activist’s life

Graphic book is an account of social activism in Cork city
Book draws on a Cork activist’s life

Orla Egan and Megan Luddy O'Leary at the launch of their book 'Diary of an Activist' in the Cork City Library recently. Picture: Howard Crowdy

DIARY Of An Activist, a recently-launched publication from Cork City Library, is an intergenerational collaboration between activist and writer Orla Egan and artist Megan Luddy O’Leary.

This gorgeous book traces the journey of a Cork social activist through vegetarianism, peace and anti-nuclear protests, feminism, coming out, lesbian parties, and becoming a parent.

It features Cork locations like Quay Co-op, Loafer’s and Fitzgerald’s Park and Senior Executive Librarian Patricia Looney describes it as ‘a wonderful social history of the 80’s that will appeal across the generations’.

Orla tells The Echo the idea for the book has been with her for some time.

“I was inspired by the work of Alison Bechdel and loved the idea of a Cork social activism graphic memoir,” she says.

“For me this always was a graphic book - I wanted to use a combination of words and images to show the rich history of social activisms in Cork from the 1970s onwards. I wanted to show what that world looked like. I wanted to show the posters, the badges, the Gerstner machines and how we made a newspaper – to show how we communicated and campaigned in a time before easy access to telephones, computers and social media.

“There was one major problem – I can’t really draw. Megan Luddy O’Leary has made this book look absolutely beautiful – she took my stories and bad sketches and turned them into multiple works of art.

“I was so lucky to meet the amazingly talented Megan and even more lucky that she agreed to collaborate with me on creating this book. It was very much a collaboration and this book is a co-creation. I don’t think either of us had any idea how much work would go in to making it happen.”

Orla is the founder and director of the Cork LGBT Archive, and the author of Queer Republic of Cork, which traces the history of Cork’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities from the 1970s-1990s.

“While Diary of an Activist is more personal, it does link with other work I do in preserving and sharing the rich history of social activism and the LGBT community in Cork,” she says. “For me this book is about social activism – it is about vegetarianism, anti-nuclear and CND protests, feminism, lesbian activism and lesbian parties, history, archives – it is about remembering places like the Quay Co-op (as it was in the 1980s) and Loafers Bar.

“I use my story as a hook to tell these important stories of activism. I wanted to show what activism was like without easy access to telephones, computers or social media.”

Orla Hopes Diary of an Activist will resonate with a wide range of people across the generations.

“I hope it is meaningful for activists of my generation – many of whom will see themselves and the campaigns they were involved in reflected in the pages of the book,” she says. “But I also hope that it resonates with younger activists, those who are busy fighting climate change, transphobia, those activists who brought us marriage equality and repeal the 8th.

“I try to make connections between those current campaigns and the decades of activism that preceded them. So yes, I would love if the book was an inspiration for the next generation of activists. Of course many activists of my generation are still activists on a range of issues – we haven’t hung up our doc martins yet!”

  • Diary of an Activist, published Cork City Library, is available to buy online at, where you can also arrange for it to be posted as a Christmas present.

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