Support group for rural LGBT people launched

Campaign is joint initiative by Macra na Feirme and Gay and Lesbian Equality Network

A campaign to support people in rural areas who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender was unveiled at the National Ploughing Championships yesterday.

The initiative, which was launched by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, came from young farmers' group Macra na Feirme and the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen). They have produced a booklet highlighting the community and support services for LGBT people living in rural areas.

Glen director Brian Sheehan said this was the first time a gay organisation had attended the National Ploughing Championships and his members had received a very warm and positive reception. "I think it is kind of a landmark moment. We are part of all of Ireland and this is a symbol of that," he said.

"We know that there's been huge progress in Ireland, even in the last 10 years, and we see it in civil partnerships in every single county yet we also know that it can be quite difficult being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in a rural
environment," he added.


"We know many people leave their rural
environments to go to a city in order to be openly lesbian or gay and we don't think they should have to do that."

Landmark moment
Macra na Feirme president Kieran O'Dowd said the young farmers' group was delighted to develop its work in the area of positive mental health. "Macra is an open and inclusive rural organisation and we hope that the wider rural community will reflect this ethos."

Mr Coveney said he was very pleased to launch the campaign and be a part of a landmark moment. “This is about equality and modernisation of our thinking across rural Ireland so that people feel accepted and can live the lives they’re comfortable with.”

Mr Coveney said there was an isolation problem in rural Ireland because of the solitary nature of the work of a farmer and the fact that some lived alone.

He said the same percentage of people are gay in rural Ireland as in urban Ireland and they needed the same mental health supports, social outlets and networks to help them enjoy a relatively stress-free life.

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times