Written by Orla Egan
In 1984 Cork Corporation instigated a policy of closing public toilets in Cork city in the evenings. Heavy barred gates were put on all the public toilets in the city and they were locked at 6.00 every evening. (This post is based on a report in Out Vol. 1 No. 4 June / July 1985)
Public toilets are sometimes used by gay men, particularly those who are closeted, for casual sexual encounters – this is known as ‘cottaging’.
One toilet remained open in Cork in the evening – a tiny, concrete pill box loo jutting out over the river on Pope’s Quay. This became ‘the busiest loo in Cork’ in the evenings. Local residents became concerned about the
comings and goings at the toilet and began to compile a list of car registrations; they believed that the area had become a centre for drug dealing but the Gardai’s explanation was that it was ‘perverts.’
A front-page article in the Cork Examiner on 7 May 1985 headed Drug Addicts or Perverts described foot-patrols, hand signals and other mysterious goings on which had disturbed the residents on Pope’s Quay. Councillors went on local radio to call for a ‘clean up’ and city engineers hastily promised another barred gate. A gate was subsequently placed on the Pope’s Quay toilet and it was also locked in the evenings.The article in Out comments: “Cottaging is for many gay men in Ireland still the only possible way to make contact ….. The barred gates in Cork mean the effective elimination of an aspect of gay life in the city. No gay group was consulted about the decision.” (Out Vol. 1 No. 4 June / July 1985)