LGBT awareness week celebrates 25th anniversary of decriminalisation of homosexuality

LGBT awareness week celebrates 25th anniversary of decriminalisation of homosexuality

Cork Chamber staff with, Kate Moynihan, LINC & Cork LGBT Interagency Steering Group; Pádraig Rice, Cork Gay Project Co-Ordinator & Cork LGBT Interagency Steering Group and Margo Hayes, Cork City Partnership, at Cork Chamber, Summerhill North, during Cork City’s 8th Annual LGBTI+ Awareness Week Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

CORK City LGBTI+ Awareness Week drew to a close yesterday following a range of events to celebrate the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex communities on Leeside.

One of the organisers of the awareness week, Kate Moynihan, a coordinator with the LINC advocacy group, spoke about the importance of the week and the events that took place.

“An objective of the City Development Plan stated that LGBT people were included in their own city. It is different from Pride Week, because Pride is organised by the community themselves, this is organised by the agencies of the city for their own clients, employees, staff, basically their own people.”

Ms Moynihan said the objective of the week is to have the LGBT community participating in the social, cultural and economic life of Cork City.

At the Being Gay and Grey conference in the Millennium Hall, City Hall, Cork, during Cork LGBTI+ Awareness Week were (from left) Joan McCarthy, Helen Slattery, Cathal Kerrigan, Toni Burgess and Arthur Leahy. Picture: Denis Minihane.
At the Being Gay and Grey conference in the Millennium Hall, City Hall, Cork, during Cork LGBTI+ Awareness Week were (from left) Joan McCarthy, Helen Slattery, Cathal Kerrigan, Toni Burgess and Arthur Leahy. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“It’s a week full of activities. The agencies and communities coming together to support inclusion and challenge homophobia.”

Ms Moynihan explained that the week coincides with International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHO).

“It is designed to raise inclusion, raise visibility and as a result challenge homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, so that is the importance of it. The ceremonial raising of the rainbow flag outside Cork City Hall and County Hall sends a message of welcome.”

The awareness week, which is in its eighth year, held a very special event this year, which was the first of its kind. A ‘Being Gay and Grey’ conference looked at the issues that the older LGBT community face and will face in the future. There was also a very special award ceremony held to recongise the veteran LGBT activists who paved the way for the younger generation .

“It is the 25th anniversary of the year of decriminalisation of homosexuality. Prior to 1993, gay men were considered criminals.

“The law reform had a huge impact on the LGBT community and this week we acknowledged three men and three women for the work that they had done at that time and since and their place in our community.”

Ms Moynihan emphasised the honour of the award and the great work these six individuals did: Arthur Leahy, Kieran Rose, Cathal Kerrigan, Helen Slattery, Toni Burgess and Joan McCarthy were all recognised for their activism work. Kieran was unable to attend event.

“Their work has made things easier for young members of the LGBT community. Their courage has had a huge impact on LGBT people and their families.

“It is an acknowledgement of them and what they have achieved.”

The LGBT activist said that younger members of the LGBT community were unaware of the challenges faced by older members of the LGBT community that helped to shape the world they now live in.”

Ms Moynihan also said that the work of these six activists also helped to carve an easier path for family members who go through a process when a loved one identifies as LGBT.

“We all have families, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, children and it also impacts on them, inclusion impacts on them.”

The week of events was brought to a close with a fun family event at Bishop Lucey Park.

“We often have people walking through the park that engage with us on an informal level.

“Fathers looking to engage with their gay sons come up to us at the park and talk to us but the same people would never come to an event. That is why it is important to hold these events,” she said.

Voices from Gay and Grey:

ARTHUR Leahy, aged 58, came out at the age of 16 in 1976.
ARTHUR Leahy, aged 58, came out at the age of 16 in 1976.
TONI Burgess, aged 65, came out at the age of 35.
TONI Burgess, aged 65, came out at the age of 35.
HELEN Slattery, aged 59, began to realise she was a lesbian at the age of 22, but took 10 years to tell her parents.
HELEN Slattery, aged 59, began to realise she was a lesbian at the age of 22, but took 10 years to tell her parents.

CATHAL Kerrigan, aged 63, was first interviewed by the Evening Echo back in 1980 when he brought his then boyfriend Mairtín to the Graduation Ball as the elected Students’ Union President.“It created quite a sensation. It was all boy, girl and suddenly it was boy, boy.”Cathal was involved in a number of activist organisations including setting up GLEN advocacy group.Speaking about receiving his award, Cathal said: “It is wonderful to be recognised by my peers.”

CATHAL Kerrigan, aged 63, was first interviewed by the Evening Echo back in 1980 when he brought his then boyfriend Mairtín to the Graduation Ball as the elected Students’ Union President.
CATHAL Kerrigan, aged 63, was first interviewed by the Evening Echo back in 1980 when he brought his then boyfriend Mairtín to the Graduation Ball as the elected Students’ Union President.

JOAN McCarthy, aged 58, is a lecturer at the college of nursing and midwifery at UCC and was also involved in the development of the lesbian and feminism community in Cork.“It means a lot to me to be recognised by my community. I suppose a lot of people see themselves as part of a neighbourhood or a town but for Lesbian and Gay people I think our community is important, so to be recognised by your peers for making that community stronger and more visible is validating, encouraging and motivates me.”Joan said the award carries a message for the wider population of Cork.“What it is saying to the wider Cork community is we have a legacy, a history, paying due diligence to the work put in to get us to that point.”

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