The launch of the USI’s national Ally Initiative took place in UCC on the 1st of October. Held in conjunction with the Students’ Union and the LGBT Society, it was officially launched by Cork City Lord mayor, Councillor John Buttimer. University College Dublin Students’ Union, Waterford Institute of Technology Students Union, St Angela’s College Sligo Students’ Union and Queen’s University Belfast Students’ Union also held launches for Ireland’s first LGBT ally campaign.
The USI LGBT Ally campaign takes inspiration from a similar venture organised by UCC LGBT Society last year and is the first campaign of its kind that the Union of Students in Ireland has run. The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender equality issues among students and to showcase the support that non-LGBT people have for the LGBT community. An LGBT Ally is someone who supports the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community and equality for LGBT people. The USI is encouraging students and public representatives to wear our USI LGBT Ally wristbands to show their support.
James Doherty, LGBT Society Campaigns Officer explains that an “LGBT ally” is “someone who creates a greater sense of security for their LGBT friends. A person doesn’t have to go out and start protesting for equality to be deemed an ally but they are anyone who supports everyone, refrains from using anti-LGBT language and defends their LGBT friends from discrimination. Allies also set a good example for others as it has more resonance when they don’t tolerate discrimination. Most people are unknowingly doing this on a day to day basis as most of us have an LGBT friend.”
LGBT Rights Officer for the Students’ Union, Aaron Blake explains the UCC connection with Ally Week: “LGBT Ally Week was a UCC LGBT Society initiative, taking inspiration from a similar campaign run in a US university. Last year’s Campaigns & Human Rights Officer, Annie Hoey, ran the massively successful venture last year. It has since been adopted as a national initiative by USI who conducted regional launches last Monday in colleges all around the country in the hope that they will run successful Ally Weeks of their own. The Lord Mayor of Cork, attended the UCC launch which is an achievement that we can be further proud of. “
Aaron feels that allies are important “because they make up 90% of the population who do not identify as L, G, B or T and without their support, the community would be nowhere near the thriving body of people that it is now.” His message to those who are in support of LGBT but have not yet ‘pledged’ to be an Ally, is to go and do it. “It’s very simple. All it takes is to defend your LGBT friends who may be bullied, prevent the use of anti-LGBT language and stand by your LGBT peers in the fight for equal rights. It’s a struggle but progress is being made and is, without a doubt, accelerated and catalysed by our Allies.”
James Doherty is “really looking forward to see what direction other people will take the campaign as it will be constantly adapting itself. It is definitely gathering momentum at the moment and I’ve no doubt that it will become a great addition to many colleges around the country. I hope that the campaign spreads its roots outside the college population too and finds itself being run in areas where there is noticeable LGBTphobia.
To join the campaign, students can pick up an LGBT Ally wristband from the Students’ Union.