Written by Orla Egan
The UCC GaySoc was established in December 1980 following a debate at the UCC Philosophical Society, addressed by David Norris, on the motion that the House supports the establishment of a college Gay Society. The motion was supported and over 30 members joined the GaySoc.
The Society’s aim was “to promote and support socially, politically and legally the well-being of gay people in the University community and the community at large.” The group began to meet weekly in the UCC Student’s Union.
The Auditor of the UCC Gay Society, Donnacha McCarthy, commented that the society deeply regretted the decision of the Joint Board as they felt if reflected the ignorance and lack of understanding of the problems gay people face in an institution like UCC. It also exhibited an undeniable discrimination in that this was one of the first societies in the university to be refused recognition. (Cork Examiner Tuesday 10 February 1981)
A report in the summer 1981 edition of In Touch noted that the UCC GaySoc “continues to thrive under the very difficult constraints imposed upon it by the Joint Board’s refusal to recognise it as an official college society.” (In Touch Vol. 3 No. 3 June/July 1981)
A leaflet produced by the UCC GaySoc (undated but probably circa 1984) notes that college is a time when many students explore their sexuality and come out as a gay person. It stresses the importance of meeting and gaining strength and support from other gay people. It also emphasises the political significance of the GaySoc’s activities and locates itself within wider social change movements – “Affirming the validity of your gay identity, being with other gay people is a political act, challenging the social and institutional control of our sexual lives is a political struggle. We welcome the co-operation of the Socialist Society because we see the struggle for the rights of gay people as being part of the larger struggle for socialism. Our rights will not be granted freely by the establishment. We will have to take them. And we can only do this by organising with others who realise that their needs demand also that this society is radically changed. This means organised workers and women.” (Gay Students UCC GaySoc Leaflet)
In April 1989 UCC became the first constituent college of the National University of Ireland to give recognition to a gay group, enabling the UCC Lesbian and Gay Support Group to avail of funding and facilities in the college. Josephine O Halloran, a spokesperson for the group, “hailed the decision as historic, especially in view of the recent vote by the UCD academic council against recognition for a similar group in that college.” (Irish Times 26 April 1989)