Barra O’Donnabhain: Homosexuality, UCC, David Norris,




Barra O’Donnabhain: Homosexuality, UCC, David Norris,


Stories and memories of LGBT life in Cork City and County.


Barra was born in Shannon Co. Clare but moved to Cork in the late seventies to attend UCC at a time when the first student gay society was being set up. He had experience of gay life and the emerging gay social scene in Cork and Dublin in the early 1980s.

Barra today is a Lecturer of Archaeology at University College Cork. From UCC website: Dr Barra O'Donnabhain, who holds a PhD degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, is a bioarchaeologist who has been conducting archaeological research in Ireland and other parts of the world for over 25 years.


1 June 2016




Cork, Clare, Ireland, 1960s-2010s,


Cork Folklore Project Audio Archive






1 .wav File






Cork Folklore Project, Farranferris, Cork.

Original Format


Bit Rate/Frequency

24bit / 48kHz


DC And, so when you went to UCC, wasn’t the atmosphere so of UCC wasn’t liberal, no? --

BOD It wasn’t positive at all, and like UCC actually for me, was a very challenging place. Partly I suppose because you know, say the three years in my undergraduate from the age of seventeen to twenty, I was realising more and more, this isn’t a phase that is a going away. This is how I am, and I must be the only one as well, but I knew I wasn’t, because there was an attempt and I, --

DC What was year was this now was this in UCC?

BOD I started in 78 and I think it would have been maybe about ’79 or ’80 there was an attempt to establish a gay society and that is what it was going to be called a gay soc, gay in UCC. And the University opposed it, in fact, the University wouldn’t allow it, so I don’t know what year, I, I?

DC I think it was about then because we spoke to Cathal and he?

BOD To Cathal Kerrigan?

DC Yeah, he was the auditor wasn’t he ? --

BOD  Well he, well he was the auditor, well he was also that was an interesting story in itself, because that would have been either my second or third year so either 79 or 80 and he, he was elected as a, what would you call it, chairman or president, of the UCC students Union. And you know I think he got it because his dad was a TD so he was seen as a natural leader or whatever and then after he was elected president of the students Union, he came out or he let it be known that he was gay. And this caused a lot of consternation; I don’t think there is any way he would have been voted in, if that had been known prior, because, I actually I can put a date on this, I think it was 1980, or 81 because the hunger strikes were on in Northern Ireland, so it was an awful time in Ireland generally like you know the economy was down the toilet, and then you had this nothing seem to go right for the country but anyway the hunger strikes were on and as part of that, the students union, I think Cathal may have, I don’t know done something, like closed in sympathy or made some expression of sympathy in one direction or another. And there was a general assembly of the students call somebody objected to this, now I can’t remember what led up to this, but anyway so there was general assembly, in the main restaurant in UCC and Cathal stood up, and it was like prior to that he had led some kind of a student protest about fees or something like that, and there was a sit-in, in the presidents office and you know there were kind of general meetings, and he would have seen as somebody who was doing stuff that was worth doing but then he came out and there was this general meeting called, as I say, I think it was about the hunger strikes and the student response to it and he got up on the stage and he said something like oh we have a query here from somebody and the whole place erupted into laughter, and it was like, I was looking around, I was like whatever, nineteen, twenty, I was looking around, I was like seriously? Like that is the reaction, that is you know this is so funny because a queer has the said the word query? And I do remember thinking you know looking around the room and saying these are, this is Irelands future leaders, this is not a good sign, you know and to be honest I didn’t have a high opinion of my fellow students, and you know the kind of guffaws of laughter, and oh Jesus it was pathetic, but then things got on to things to discussing whatever substantive issue was, but that for me, was a kind of a real moment of kind rejection if you like by my peers even though it had nothing to do with me.