After 15 years of working as the Deputy CEO, Head of Operations, Fundraising, and Corporate Secretary for BeLonG To, the LGBTQ+ youth charity in Ireland, Oisín O’Reilly was happily appointed as the new CEO of Dublin’s Outhouse LGBT Community Resource Centre. When asked how he felt about coming to the new post, O’Reilly said: “This is a job I’ve wanted for years. I had said to Moninne [Griffith], the CEO of BeLonG To, years ago, that if this role ever came up she could take it as my notice. Then when it was advertised, she texted me the link and said ‘I’ll take this as your notice.’”
O’Reilly reminisced on his first visits to Outhouse when he was younger: “As a teenager coming in here I never thought that I would sit on the top floor in the CEO’s office. In a way, it’s a weird twist of fate, in another way, not.
“I’ve a great fondness for Outhouse, it’s the first queer venue I came into, and there are so many people who share that little thread of their journey as a member of the community - that Outhouse was the first, or one of the first queer spaces that they came into - and I’m acutely aware of the emotional connection that the space, and the essence of what Outhouse is, has to members of our community.”
Rebuilding that emotional connection between Outhouse and Dublin’s LGBTQ+ community in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is one of O’Reilly’s most pressing goals as the new CEO. “I have a challenge ahead of me,” O’Reilly shared. “COVID hasn’t been easy on the centre. We’ve been closed as a physical space for almost two years and that emotional connection that Outhouse creates has been broken in a way, but we are trying to reestablish that with people in our community and people in our centre. There’s a lot of rebuilding for us to do, a lot of questions about the future to answer.” Some of those questions, according to O’Reilly, are the very pressing issues of accessibility, homelessness, and poverty in the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland.
“When I went in for this job, one of the things I had to do was present my vision for the future of Outhouse and one of the things that came up for me was the building itself. The physical space is not accessible, and by its nature is exclusionary to members of our community. There are no permanent community spaces anywhere in Ireland, that I’m aware of, that are fully accessible. And for a community that works towards equality, equity, and human rights, we have to fundamentally examine that principle and examine our space.”
In addition to examining Outhouse’s accessibility, O’Reilly expressed a desire to see Outhouse tackle the very serious issues of homelessness and poverty amongst Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community.
“The Fundamental Rights Agency Report in 2020 said that 38 percent of the community in Ireland would experience homelessness by the age of 30,” O’Reilly shared. “So that’s two out of five — it’s a shocking statistic. We have no emergency accommodation for LGBTQ+ individuals in the country and that situation is becoming more acute as the housing crisis and the cost-of-living prices spike.
“What role can Outhouse play, should Outhouse play, and how can we meet the needs of many members of our community who are facing lives of poverty? The housing question moves beyond the homelessness question and comes to the root of our ability to thrive as people. This is the first generation who are almost guaranteed to have a worse standard of living than their parents—what will that do to our community and what role will Outhouse be able to play in tackling these issues?” O’Reilly concluded.
Despite the monumental challenges facing the community, O’Reilly believes that, with the help of the community, coupled with his background in BeLonG To, his experiences have given him the tools he needs to effect change at the helm of Outhouse.
“Having worked in the community for all of my career brings with it some strengths and some challenges. I suppose I know the issues that affect the community intimately and I understand the politics of advocacy and how the state has oppressed the community in the past, but equally within that I’m always conscious that, having worked within the community, there’s an element of groupthink that can also prevail. So I suppose I’m keenly aware of the need to scan the horizon of where we are now versus where we’ve come from.
“Expectations are very high about what Outhouse could be, but at the end of the day, in the next 12 months, choices will have to be made about what we will and what we will not do. And some of that is going to be challenging and difficult. I worry about how some people might feel about those choices, because none of them are easy. But the need to make those choices and the ability to make those choices is something I’ve been acutely aware of during my 15 years at BeLonG To,” O’Reilly concluded.
We wish Oisin all the very best in his new role and may Outhouse go from strength to strength.