Q&A: Garvan Hickey, Macra
Ireland’s many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people achieved another landmark in September when, for the first time, an LGBT organisation had a stand at the National Ploughing Championships in Co Laois — our primary annual agricultural event.
“Ireland has experienced great progress for LGBT people over the past 20 years and we want to ensure that this visibility and positive change is equally enjoyed by those who are LGBT in rural Ireland,” said Brian Sheehan, director of GLEN, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, at the Ploughing.
GLEN was supported by Macra na Feirme, which launched a support booklet for LGBT people in rural Ireland, in conjunction with GLEN, and by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney TD, who visited GLEN’s stand to launch the booklet.
“Macra are delighted to develop our work in the area of positive mental health and to support GLEN. Macra is an open and inclusive rural organisation, and we hope that the wider rural community will reflect our ethos,” said Macra President Kieran O’Dowd.
“With civil partnerships being celebrated across every county and more people being open with their families, friends and communities, the visibility and status of LGBT people across every part of Ireland has increased very significantly over the last decade ” said Sheehan.
“In rural areas, however, it can be harder for LGBT people to get to know other LGBT people or to find support, and sometimes LGBT people can experience discrimination or harassment or may feel isolated. This can impact on mental health. This new resource, which we’ve developed in partnership with Macra, provides LGBT people with helpful information on mental health and wellbeing and on the range of supports available for LGBT people living in rural Ireland.”
“I believe the publication of this booklet is a very positive step for Macra and is in keeping with the inclusive nature of the organisation, Garvan Hickey, chair of Macra’s Rural Youth Initiative committee said. “The Rural Youth Initiative Committee is committed to undertaking research, lobbying and raising public awareness on issues that affect young people.
“The promotion of positive mental health has been and continues to be a primary aim of the committee, and partnerships with organisations such as GLEN allow us to continue this work.
“Talking about mental health is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength, and allows young people to talk about the issues that they are facing.
“It is important that Macra na Feirme continues to be proactive in promoting positive mental health.
* What has been the response to this Macra initiative?
>>The response has been very positive, with members from all over the country welcoming it. What has been most encouraging is the response from former members, with many saying it was great to see Macra continuing to provide a voice and support for young people in rural Ireland. Macra is the leading voice for young people in rural Ireland and it is important that we represent all rural young people.
* The booklet highlights community and support services available for LGBT people living in rural Ireland. Are there many support organisations, and services, give some examples?
>>Organisations which provide support include OutWest, Belong to Youth Service, Amach, Rainbow Support Service, Ciarrai Amach, sOUTh, to name but a few.
The supports for LGBT people are different in the various rural areas across the country, with many locally based organisations doing excellent work, a number of these groups are listed in the booklet.
However there are many more groups across the county working with little or no resourcing.
In these difficult economic times, it is increasingly important that rural organisations support each other and work to ensure that the issues facing young people are highlighted, and solutions found.
* Where is the booklet available?
>>The booklet is available online from Macra or GLEN, or you can download it on the www.macra.ie Macra website.
* The booklet urges LGBT people to join Macra. Why is this a good idea?
>>In Macra, there’s something for everyone, under the headings of agriculture, community involvement, performing arts, public speaking, sport, and travel.
Macra is a unique organisation in that it is dependent on voluntary effort and is centred around delivering for the individual member and the local clubs. Membership is open to anyone aged between 17 and 35, and every member has a voice and gets the opportunity to participate at all levels.
Within Macra there is a strong focus on personal development, and it allows people to try something which they might not otherwise have the opportunity or the confidence to do.
As well as the opportunity to participate in a variety of competitions, the social element of Macra is very important, it gives young people the opportunity to meet and get to know other young people from their own county and from all over the country.
There is also a wide range of benefits which Macra members can avail of which are listed on our website.
However, I would say that it is only by being an active member that one really sees the benefits of Macra na Feirme.
A number of members have described being a member of Macra to me as being similar to being a part of a big family in which everyone looks out for everyone else.
* Is this booklet useful for parents also?
>>This booklet is useful for parents, as it can help them to understand some of the issues that their child may be going through.
We need to look after our mental health as much as we do our physical health.
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