Forty & Fabulous |

3 mins

Forty & Fabulous

This year, Gay Project is commemorating a remarkable milestone: its 40th anniversary since its grassroots beginnings. This milestone is a time to reflect on the organisation’s journey, celebrate its achievements, and introduce two individuals poised to lead the charge into a new era of empowerment.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Gay Project CLG traces its roots back to the early 1980’s, emerging from political and social initiatives by the Cork Lesbian and Gay Project (founded in 1984) to support the LGBTQ+ community.

“The project aimed to explore the possibility of starting a youth group, looking for a building for a lesbian and gay centre, starting a befriending group, expanding the phone service, having socials and forming a health group,” recalls Orla Egan in Queer Republic of Cork (2016).

It emerged during a time when Ireland’s attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community were vastly different. Homosexuality was criminalised, and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals permeated society.

In 1991, The Other Place, a gay and lesbian resource centre, was established, laying the groundwork for the later development of two vibrant organisations: Gay Project and LINC, both dedicated to providing essential support to local LGBTQ+ individuals.

“We’ve come a long way in the past 40 years,” reflects Arthur Leahy, one of the organisation’s founding members. “Back then, the landscape was vastly different. But through advocacy, support, and unwavering dedication, the community has made significant strides towards a more inclusive and accepting society. It’s great to now walk down the street and to see gay couples holding hands openly, that would have never happened when we started out.”

From its humble beginnings, Gay Project has evolved into a beacon of hope, providing vital support services, advocating for policy reforms, and building a sense of community and belonging for LGBTQ+ individuals across Cork.

One of the most significant milestones in recent years has been Cork being granted Rainbow City statusacknowledging its commitment to creating a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment for the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a testament to the tireless efforts of organisations like Gay Project, LINC and many others that work closely with the Cork LGBTI+ Interagency Group with the support of local authorities and community partners.

“We are incredibly proud of the progress the Gay Project has made,” says John Buttimer, Chairperson of Gay Project’s Board. “But there is still a lot of work to be done. Our fight for equality and inclusion is far from over.”

In recent years, Gay Project has undergone significant transformations. It has expanded its range of community groups, recruited new staff, revitalised its community centre and embraced the future with a clear strategic plan. The need for such planning is underscored by the sobering findings of the Central Statistics Office in 2019, highlighting the heightened discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in Irish society. Gay Project’s strategic plan for 2022 – 2025 is designed to address and eliminate this discrimination and disadvantage through a holistic approach to their work.

Konrad Im, who recently assumed the role of Manager at Gay Project, embodies the great deal of support the Gay Project provides in nurturing future leaders. From his early days as a volunteer leader to his recent appointment as Manager, Konrad attributes his development to the support and mentorship he’s received from within the LGBTQ+ community.

“I am honoured to lead Gay Project into its next chapter,” Konrad remarks. “Together with our dedicated staff, countless volunteers, and community partners, we will continue to advocate for equality, support those in need, and celebrate the diversity of our community.”

Joining Konrad in his mission is Nathan Kelleher, the newly appointed Community Development Worker at Gay Project. “I am excited to be a part of the Gay Project family,” Nathan says. “Through our various programs and initiatives, we strive to create spaces where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued. I’m really looking forward to building my experience and learning from the community in the Community Development Worker role.”

The work of Gay Project extends far beyond traditional support services. From the GOLD Café, where older gay men gather to socialise and connect, to Rainbow DiverseAbilities, a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community with disabilities and/or neurodiversities, the organisation offers a wide range of opportunities for community engagement and enrichment.

The enduring legacy of Gay Project stands as a testament to the dedication of its past leaders, including Dave Roche, Pádraig Rice, Michael O’Donnell and Ailsa Spindler, as well as its numerous voluntary Board members, dedicated staff, and countless activists and volunteers. For 40 years, they have been at the forefront of the fight for equality and acceptance.

Gay Project recently launched its Annual Report for 2023 and a Needs Analysis looking at the needs of the community it serves. Both documents can be seen at

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