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Rainbow Walkway Launch Speeches

Running Order

Progress with Pride Events

14:00-15:00, Monday October 11, 2021


Event 1 - Rainbow Walkway Unveiling

14:00   Guests to convene outside the South Lodge

14:05 Welcome from Director of EDI, Dr Avril Hutch (she/her)

14:15 Welcome to UCC student and staff speakers - Deputy Registrar Professor Stephen Byrne

14:10   Welcome from President John O’ Halloran and Introduction to Joan and Cathal                           Kerrigan

14:15   Welcome from Student Union President - Asha Woodhouse

14:20 LGBTQ Student Society – Eliot Mulhall (they/them)

14:25 LGBT Staff Network - Speech Dr Fiachra Ó Súilleabháin

14:35   President, Mary O’ Rourke, Barra and Fiachra present LGBT Network Lifetime Membership award to Cathal and Joan

14:35   Cathal Kerrigan

14:40   Dr Joan Mc Carthy

14:45 Move to Rainbow Walkway & unveiling by President O’ Halloran, SU President Asha Woodhouse, Cathal Kerrigan, Dr Joan Mc Carthy, Eliot Mulhall, Dr Fiachra Ó Súilleabháin

14:50 Photocall on walkway

Welcome from Dr Avril Hutch, Director of EDI, UCC

Good afternoon everyone, Happy International Coming Out Day and a very warm welcome here today for the launch of the UCC #Progress with Pride campaign and Rainbow Walkway unveiling ceremony.

My name is Dr Avril Hutch. My pronouns are She/Her. I am the new Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion here at UCC and we are thrilled to host this event today outside our new home for the EDI Unit in the South Lodge.

This prominent location underpins UCC’s ongoing commitment to EDI and we are thrilled to be located in what is essentially new EDI quarter on campus located as we are beside the autism friendly garden, student union, chaplaincy, student support services, our rainbow clad Library and now our rainbow walkway.

With the support of DPR Office, we are thrilled to partner with UCC Community Week, Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha, Buildings and Estates, UCC Race Equality Forum, the Student Union, and LGBT+ Staff and Student Soc for the first time on this joint initiative which we hope will create a sense of belonging for everyone, irrespective of their background or identity, visiting our beautiful campus.

We are delighted to have a number of external organisations with us today and later this afternoon for our Coming Out Day Panel Discussion – including LGBT+ Ireland, The National Federation of LGBT Network, TENI, CorkLGBTArchives, LINC and many more, NCBI, AsIAM and the Cork Traveller Women’s Network. Thank you for your support and guidance on this initiative and we look forward to continued partnership.

We hope that this collective of groups brought together both inside and outside the university is reflective of the intersectional message we hope will be translated by the rainbows you see across the campus today. We want to ensure people reflect on and understand the meaning behind our symbolism and recognise that behind the beauty of the rainbow those it represents often face discrimination and hostility. While Ireland has changed dramatically in recent years we must reaffirm our commitment to work to address and counter this. We are stronger together and nobody must be left behind.

#ProgressWithPride allows us to recognise all those things together and I am delighted to welcome President John O’Halloran to start proceedings here today.

President John O'Halloran

Welcome everyone to this wonderful occasion.  It’s great to be with you all here, on campus, in person.

 The rainbow flag is now synonymous with LGBT+ people. It first emerged in the late 1970s when Gilbert Baker, a compatriot of Harvey Milk, created the inaugural flag in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. It has been argued that Baker was inspired by Judy Garland’s death, her anthem, Over the Rainbow. There were only six colours in the first flags used in San Francisco Pride in 1978-9. Rumours were that this was because apparently the volunteers ran out of time to dye the fabric, but others argue it was because Baker wanted even numbers to spread the colours evenly when draping street lights. Artistic license knows no bounds! But, it is important to note that the rainbow flag was introduced as a celebratory symbol of protest and replaced the Pink Triangle, which was used in Nazi concentration camps to identify and stigmatise homosexual prisoners. Baker wanted something more inspirational – something more hopeful. Today’s version of the flag is known as the Progress Rainbow Flag – additional colours have been added to inspire us to give greater recognition for intersectionalities, to recognise our LGBT+ siblings of colour, and most recently to recognise intersex people. I think this this is important because it is a marker to demonstrate that progress towards greater diversity equality and inclusion is a task within LGBT+ communities as well as in wider society.

What do the Colours Mean?

The pride walkway colours each hold a different meaning, and each colour represents an important value of the LGBTI+ community. 

  • Red represents life and passion, with passion ideally where life originates from.
  • Orange represents healing, fun and celebration.
  • Yellow represents sunlight, radiance, new ideas and thoughts.
  • Green represents nature and growth.
  • Blue represents calmness and serenity.
  • Purple represents the spirit and pride.
  • Black/Brown represents people of colour in the LGBTI+ community
  • Light Blue/Pink/White represent the transgender community
  • Yellow with a purple circle outline represents the intersex community

This rainbow walkway symbolically recognises the inclusion of minority people in the physical landscape of our institution. For me, this institutional recognition represented so creatively and artistically, is so much more powerful than sum of the coloured strips which make up the walkway. For me, it portrays an unequivocal message to students, staff, family members, alumni, visitors and to the wider community that ours is a higher education institution that not only recognises the validity of LGBT+ lives, but celebrates their place in the academy. It also creatively and artistically symbolises our institution’s zero-tolerance of discrimination and marginalisation.

I am delighted to have Mr Cathal Kerrigan and Dr Joan McCarthy here for this unique event. Cathal and Joan are very special to UCC as a whole, and our LGBT+ community in particular.  Cathal graduated with a BA in 1980 and was elected President of UCC Students’ Union 1980-81, and he worked as an Assistant Librarian at UCC from 2003 until 2020, when he retired.  Dr Joan McCarthy, also a graduate of UCC, also retired from UCC in 2020.  She worked for a number of years as a College and Senior Lecturer in Healthcare Ethics in the School of Nursing and Midwifery.  Always informed by feminism and frequently inter-disciplinary, her research outputs address topics such as the role of ethics in clinical practice, the professional-patient relationship, professionals' experiences of moral distress and nursing and midwifery ethics.  She has served on a number of professional boards including the National Advisory Committee on Bioethics.

And more recently, they have both been seen in the Gate Cinema contributing to the Cork Indie Cork Film Festival documentary, The Quay Co-op.

Cathal and Joan were part of the group which founded UCC LGBT Staff Network in 2007 – the first in higher education in Ireland and they were its first co-chairs.  They gave effective leadership during their two years of office – overseeing a very high-profile launch by President Michael Murphy in 2008; organizing a national seminar in March 2009 on Pushing Boundaries: Setting up a Support Network for LGBT staff in the Workplace – which was attended by groups from other universities and commercial companies.  UCD and TCD subsequently followed UCC’s lead and established staff networks of their own.  This helped promote and drive on UCC’s strategic goal of being an inclusive workplace and reflected Joan and Cathal’s life-long commitment to building an inclusive society in Ireland. 

This walkway is a direct result of their early activism.

There are a number of people and groups who all helped get this across the finish line.

Many thanks to our new Director of EDI, Dr Avril Hutch and the EDI Unit team, who has hit the ground running since she arrived at the end of June, and who input huge energy into making this walkway a reality.

I also want to acknowledge of the UCC LGBTQ student society and the UCCSU, and I’m delighted to see SU President Asha Woodhouse here today, for their support for this initiative and ongoing work to bring together and support the LGBTQ+ student community. 

Huge thanks to the staff in Buildings and Estates, who identified the most suitable location, researched the installation and finished to such a high standard.  In particular I want to mention Mark Poland, Paul Prendergast, Ross O’Donovan, Michael O’Sullivan, Pat Cotter and all in General Services, and especially our painter Roderick McLaughlin.

And finally, most importantly, Fiachra Ó Súilleabháin from the LGBT+ staff network for putting the walkway on the agenda, and the Staff Network exec – Mary, Barra, Laurence.  The work they do in this university in creating the space for inclusion and belonging for our LGBT+ community cannot be overstated and UCC is a better place for them.

And now I’d like to invite Interim Registrar Prof Stephen Byrne to introduce our student leaders.

Interim Registrar, Professor Stephen Byrne

As Interim Registrar, I am delighted to support the #Progress with Pride campaign and it is wonderful to see the Rainbow Walkway on campus. Our commitment to EDI we look forward to progressing the important agenda and ensuring we counter discrimination and intolerance in all its forms. We are proud to support this initiative today, building on the great work of our LGBT+ staff and student networks. Our LGBT work here in UCC started as a student initiative, and I’m delighted to welcome Cathal and Joan here today.

And so, I am delighted to welcome our SU President Asha Woodhouse and LGBTQ+ Society Rep Elliot Mulhall to say a few words.

UCCSU President, Asha Woodhouse

I’m delighted to be here today to be part of the Rainbow Walkway Launch and I want to extend my thanks to the EDI Unit and their new Director Dr Avril Hutch for inviting me and including the Students’ Union in this launch.

It is great to gather here to mark National Coming Out Day and to launch the Rainbow Walkway, and to simply celebrate our queer community here in UCC. Symbols like this are important, especially a symbol so permanent and visible as the rainbow walkway is. They can make our peers and colleagues who are queer feel safe, seen and accepted. They can help start important conversations around equality, diversity and inclusion. And they can remind us of how far we have come, and that there is pride in being both part of the queer community and an ally to the queer community. 

However, it’s important to also pause and reflect that we shouldn’t need a symbol like this to remind us that queer people deserve to be treated the same as everyone else. While we celebrate National Coming Out Day and the launch of this permanent symbol of pride on our campus, we have to remember that this is about more than visibility, equality, diversity or inclusion. This is about the liberation of queer people from a system within society that benefits from our oppression and marginalisation. A system that incites violence and hate, makes many feel unsafe and unable to live their true self, and inhibits adequate access to healthcare for trans and non-binary people. And while we have come so far, this is the difficult reality that many are still faced with today. 

So while I encourage you all to celebrate and be proud of your identity and your campus today. I also want to encourage all of you, but especially those who are allies, to do the work to dismantle the stigma and discrimination that is ongoing for so many, both externally with those around you and internally within yourself. But also within the queer community we need to do work too because we know that other forms of discrimination are also manifest, such as racism, ableism, classism, etc. Because solidarity is not a noun but a verb – it is an action and a recognition of the fact that when marginalised communities channel our collective power, we are stronger than ever. And with our collective power we can build a world that does not incite hatred because of who you love or how you identify. I don’t know about you but that’s the world I want to live in. Thank you.

LGBTQ Society Chair, Ellott Mulhall

Hello, My name is Elliott Mulhall and my pronouns are they/them. I'm here to speak on behalf of UCC's LGBTQ Society as this year's Chairperson.

As we know, today the 11th of October is coming out day. The society supports everyone regardless of if they're out and proud or still in the closet, and helps them in the stages in between. We're really lucky to be able to do that, as in the past even the society was not out, as it were.

Up until around 8 years ago, LGBTQ Society events were kept secret, with the location being sent out to trusted members an hour beforehand so that they could be safe, supported and not have people coming along to spread hate. The society has come a long way since then, but first let's talk about the beginning.

In 1980, one of our founding members attended a ball in Kampus Kitchen with his boyfriend, and was met with homophobic abuse. He wanted to create a safe space where that wouldn't happen, and started Gaysoc. This begun after a Philosophical Society debate for "the establishment of a Gaysoc by the Students Union". While the society had been established, it was not formally recognised by the governing body of UCC until April 1989. Although 9 years late, this too was a momentus occasion as homosexuality was still a crime in Ireland until 1993.

Since then, we have gone through many name changes, from Gaysoc, to the Lesbian and Gay Society, the LGBT+ Society, and finally in 2019 to the LGBTQ Society which was voted in by our members. Although we've gone through many changes, we still stand for the same thing: To support UCC's LGBTQ community, and ask that everyone else does too. We can see the support in the action of an ally, the raising of a flag and today in this rainbow crossroad, a permanent symbol of UCC's support of the LGBTQ community.

I'm so glad to be here today to witness the opening of it. Thank you.

LGBT+ Staff Network, Dr Fiachra Ó Súilleabháin

A Uachtarán, a Leas-Uachtarán, a chairde go léir,

It is a great privilege to speak on behalf of UCC’s LGBT+ Staff Network today as we mark the official opening of this Rainbow Walkway, positioned so beautifully here in the EDI hub of our university. UCC’s LGBT+ Staff Network, sitting on the shoulders of the Student Society, is proud to be an EDI flagship champion in UCC. We work proactively across campus, in the community and at a national level to amplify the lives of sexual and gender minority folk. Aligned with the values of this university, as a network, we aim to critically interrogate systemic causes of inequities. We seek to create a more equitable society for all people.

I am not a meteorologist but I can tell you that rainbows occur when the sun is behind us and the rain is in front of our field of vision. That imagery – the sun behind us and rain in front of us – conjures up visions of doom and darkness. Isn’t nature amazing that in that moment, when we could feel dread and despair, we are given rainbows to behold. Bright, colourful rainbows to clear away the grey. So, I see rainbows as symbols of hope and diversity. For those of you who didn’t know this, rainbows occur here in Ireland more often than other countries due to our climate where the weather forecast can often include the words ‘sunshine with showers’. Maybe we do need to clear away the grey in Ireland more than others! Truthfully, there is cause for some concern. Despite the socio-legal changes that have signalled greater acceptance of sexual diversity and gender expansive identities in the 21st century, worldwide studies highlight the enduring targeting of those with a sexual and/or gender minority status. Even with the constitutional and legislative changes since 2015 (marriage equality and gender recognition), LGBT+ youth face a myriad of social, familial, community, educational and healthcare challenges in Ireland (McNeil et al. 2013; O’Sullivan and TENI 2013; Dunne and Turraoin 2015; LGBTIreland report 2016; Pizmony-Levy and BeLonG To Youth Services 2019; McBride et al. 2020; Keeley, Ó Súilleabháin and Leane 2021). Research has consistently shown that despite public perceptions of greater social inclusion, sexual and gender minority students hear negative comments about trans people and transphobic remarks in educational settings, including from teachers and staff members (Pizmony-Levy and BeLonG To Youth Services 2019; McBride et al. 2020). Furthermore, trans and gender diverse youth have reported that their experience of marginalisation in post-primary school settings inhibited their capacity to live authentically in their true identities (McBride et al. 2020).  As a university community, we are aware that many of the contemporary school-leaving LGBT+ students who come to UCC as first-year undergraduates come with complex schooling histories given that:

  • 73% of LGBTI+ students feel unsafe at school - 47% because of their sexual orientation and 27% because of their gender expression.
  • The majority of LGBTI+ students (86%) feel deliberately excluded by peers with 74% experiencing being the focus of rumours or lies.
  • 77% of LGBTI+ students are verbally harassed (e.g. name calling or being threatened) based on their sexual orientation, gender, gender expression or ethnic origin.
  • 38% of LGBTI+ students are physically harassed (e.g. being shoved or pushed), 25% because of their sexual orientation and 18% based on gender expression.
  • 11% of LGBTI+ students are physically assaulted (e.g. punched, kicked or injured with a weapon) because of their sexual orientation, 8% because of their gender expression.
  • 43% of LGBTI+ students are sexually harassed (e.g. unwanted touching or sexual remarks).
  • 39% of LGBTI+ students experience cyberbullying via social media, telephone and email over the past year.

(Pizmony-Levy and BeLonG To Youth Services 2019).

These sobering statistics are from very recent research - published in 2019. We have also seen concerning threats from neo-conservative, neo-heterosexist, exclusionary politics. So, our backs are to the sunlight that was Marriage Equality and we are facing those grey skies. And, this is why, for me the Rainbow Walkway is so symbolically important.

Some of you might be wondering how I can gain so much hope from lines of colour on the ground. I am paraphrasing here from Panti Bliss’ Nobel Call speech – sometimes living as a queer person in a straight world can feel oppressive. It isn’t always easy to be activist, artivist, lobbyist, campaigner but what makes it easier and less oppressive is when people stand by you. This rainbow walkway is important to me because it also represents allyship. I see our university as a relational, educational eco-system. Our ecology feeds on solidarity, collectivity, mutual-aid and respect – we are nourished by an ethics of care and inclusion. EDI-efforts are processual as much as goal-oriented. This walkway happened because people were allies; people chose to make this happen. People were active in making this happen; people supported this when it didn’t necessarily have a personal resonance for them because they saw how important and symbolic it is for us. That is a testament to our priority for a Connected University. Ar scath a chéile a mhairimid.

A walkway brings you to and from a place. The message of the Rainbow walkway is internally-oriented and externally-oriented. I am delighted that our connections with external community organisations is so visible today with representatives from LINC, Gay Project, Sexual Health Centre, HSE, MTU, City Council, LGBT Inter-agency Group, Bystander Intervention, Mná at UCC, Access, DSS, Race Equality Working Group and so on. We hope this walkway fosters lots of rainbow walkways across Cork. We have received some beautifully supportive messages but I would like to end with a quote from Margie Fennelly, who coordinates the support group for parents of LGB people. When Margie heard about the Rainbow Walkway, she wrote to me:

It will send a very positive message to all students, and I think it will put UCC out there as working hard towards inclusiveness and visibility for all who study, work, and pass-through campus. From a parent of LGBT children's point of view, it would have a big impact on my decision of whether to choose UCC over another college for my child's education.  It would give me a sense of security and safety for my children while attending college there.

I can think of no better reason for celebrating this walkway – I was one of those gay kids!

John, Stephen, Nuala, Ciara, Avril – thank you, thank you, thank you.

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Unit

Comhionannas, Éagsúlacht agus Ionchuimsitheacht

South Lodge, College Road, University College, Cork, T12 RXA9