Cork Branch Irish Gay Rights Movement
The first Cork LGBT organisation, the Cork Branch of the IGRM (Irish Gay Rights Movement) was set up in 1975.
The Dublin Branch of the IGRM had been set up in 1974. The Sunday World newspaper had published an article about the newly founded IGRM and gave a P.O. Box address for the group. A lot of people from Munster got in touch through the P.O. Box, and given the level of interest, it was decided to hold a meeting in Cork.
In 1975 two members of the Dublin branch, Sean Connolly and Clem Clancy, came down to Cork. They booked a room, under a pseudonym, and invited everyone who had been in touch from Munster. Around 60 people turned up and it was decided to form a Cork Branch. The original committee members included Cathal Kerrigan, Bert, Sean and Pat. (conversation with Cathal Kerrigan).
The aim of the IGRM was to improve the lifestyle of the homosexual in Ireland.
These aims were to be achieved through:
(i) Reform of laws relating to homosexuality
(ii) Removal of social prejudice and misconceptions regarding homosexuality
(iii)Provision of counselling, befriending and social facilities for homosexuals.
The first Cork gay centre opened in No. 4 MacCurtain Street in 1976. This provided an important space for the LGBT community, with social and community activities being organised, including weekend discos, newsletters and a telephone helpline.
Weekend discos and social events were held here up to the mid 1980s. The gay centre provided a more public space for gays to socialise than the private parties. The Cork discos were predominantly male, but some lesbians did socialise there too.
The Cork IGRM set up a telephone helpline / counselling service, Tel-A-Friend, to provide support and advice to gay people.
The nascent LGBT community sought to challenge misinformation and prejudice about LGBT people, for example through media programmes on radio and on TV.
In 1977 four issues of a Cork gay newsletter, Corks Crew, were published. In 1978 the Cork IGRM began to publish the newsletter Sapphire.
The Cork IGRM engaged in informal discussions with local Gardai and a good working relationship was established. The Gay Centre was directly across the road from the Garda Station but, apart from the occasional visit to check that all members were over 18, the Gardai did not interfere or try to prevent the operation of the Gay Centre. Unlike the situation in Dublin, I have found no reports of gay men being arested and publicly shamed in Cork in the 1970s.
At this stage the community identified as gay and lesbian, with little acknowledgment or respect for bisexual and transgender people. From the beginning, tensions emerged between lesbians and gay men, with struggles over the allocation of resources for lesbian activities.