UCC unveils Rainbow Walkway to mark ‘national coming out’ day

The walkway symbolises the progress made at UCC and nationally since the first LGBT+ staff and students groups were established by the university in the 1980s.
UCC unveils Rainbow Walkway to mark ‘national coming out’ day

University College Cork was the first Irish university to establish LGBT+ staff and student groups in the 1980s. UCC President John O'Halloran unveils the UCC Rainbow Walkway - the first institution-led rainbow walkway on an Irish university campus. Pictured were staff and students including Dr Avril Hutch with activists Cathal Kerrigan and Dr Joan Mc Carthy. Photo: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

The Irish university which established the first LGBT+ staff and student groups in the 1980s has unveiled a rainbow path on campus to celebrate diversity and inclusivity.

UCC President John O’Halloran, who unveiled the UCC Rainbow Walkway this afternoon to mark ‘national coming out’ day, said he hopes the installation of the path, between the Boole complex and the O’Rahilly building, celebrates and recognises the diversity of the UCC community and expresses UCC’s firm commitment to the creation of a campus that is inclusive, where the whole of the UCC community can feel a sense of welcome and belonging.

“This rainbow walkway symbolically recognises the inclusion of minority people in the physical landscape of our institution,” he said.

“For me, this institutional recognition represented so creatively and artistically, is so much more powerful than the sum of the coloured strips which make up the walkway.

UCC Librarian and activist Cathal Kerrigan with LGBTQ Student Society Chairperson Eliot Mulhall pictured today on the newly opened UCC Rainbow Walkway. Photo: Daragh McSweeney/Provision
UCC Librarian and activist Cathal Kerrigan with LGBTQ Student Society Chairperson Eliot Mulhall pictured today on the newly opened UCC Rainbow Walkway. Photo: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

“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.” 

The rainbow-painted walkway was proposed by the LGBT+ Staff Network and supported by the Student LGBT+ Society and the Student Union and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit. Student Union President Asha Woodhouse welcomed the development but said much more needs to be done.

“While we celebrate ‘national coming out' day and the launch of this permanent symbol of pride on the UCC campus, it's important for us all to reflect on how far we have come and to acknowledge that there is more work for us to do in order to build a world that is free from discrimination and marginalization,” she said.

Dr Fiachra Ó Súilleabháin, of the LGBT+ Network and who lectures in social work at UCC, said the walkway symbolises the progress made at UCC and nationally since the first LGBT+ staff and students groups were established in the 1980s.

The first such group in an Irish university was established by Cathal Kerrigan and Dr Joan McCarthy.

“UCD and TCD subsequently followed UCC’s lead and established staff networks of their own,” he said.

“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.” 

Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Dr Avril Hutch, said UCC’s LGBT+ network is going from strength to strength, and through its Allies scheme, ‘The Rainbow Alliance’, holds regular coffee mornings for members and non-members, and hosts many talks and events on LGBT+ themes to raise awareness and improve understanding.

She said the UCC Rainbow Walkway initiative has also recently been adopted by partner universities in Zagreb and Rotterdam.

UCC also hosted a ‘coming out day' panel discussion with representatives of LGBT Ireland, the Transgender Equality Network of Ireland (TENI) and the National Federation of LGBT+ Networks.

TENI offered dedicated Trans 101 training to students, while the Glucksman Gallery unveiled a pride art project by artist Stephen Doyle. The Boole Library is also wrapped in 'progress banners'.

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