By Caoimhe Killeen
An Teach Solais Resource Centre which provided support and resources to the LGBTQA+ community in Galway has closed, leaving the city without a vital centre for the community.
The closure of the Victoria Place office was announced last month by AMACH! LGBT Galway on their social media platforms, with the centre closing its doors on August 31st.
It cited a lack of sustainable funding and government support as the reason for its closure, as well as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The centre had faced closure since last November but had been able to stay open thanks to crowdfunding efforts of the local community via GoFundMe and through protests over its closure.
AMACH! LGBT Galway stated that the decision to close An Teach Solais was not an easy conclusion to come to, saying that: “We must focus on the future and continue to work hard for our community with the resources we currently have. We look forward to continuing our work building a safe, happy and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ people in Galway and the West of Ireland.”
AMACH! LGBT Galway was set up in November 2009 by members of the Galway LGBT community, with its official launch as a non-profit organisation in July 2010. Its mission statement is to “reflect equally the diversity within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community by encouraging positive participation from the community.”
They also provided support though educational and training workshops, peer support groups, free HIV testing through AIDS West, as well as a drop-in service for appointments, and An Teach Solais was embodied in one of AMACH! LGBT Galway’s aims as “an accessible and safe Resource Centre that can be utilised by the LGBT+ community.”
While the centre had been holding online drop-in clinics via Zoom since the start of the nationwide lockdown, the loss of the centre is still felt by many, the centre was described by An Teach Solais themselves as “a centre for the community run by the community.”
Some NUI Galway students who benefited from their services also expressed their sadness over the closure of the centre.
“Teach Solais represented community, and the simple act of popping in for a cuppa and a chat was enough to brighten your week. You could live your best queer life free from the fear of judgment or harassment,” said Callum Boyle-Ferry, Vice-Auditor of NUI Galway’s Bródsoc, a society for members of the LGBT+ community as well as anyone interested in LGBT+ rights, who organise social events on campus.
Callum also added that An Teach Solais was regarded as “a symbol of unity, and the loss of the centre is devastating to the Galway LGBTQIA+ population.”
Maeve Arnup, NUI Galway’s Students Union Gender and LGBT+ Rights Officer, and former Bródsoc Auditor also spoke to SIN about the centre’s closure: “I think it’s going to be a very difficult year for students in general, but even more so to LGBT+ students, who often first explore their identity in college.
“Usually they could find support and friends through the LGBT+ society, Bródsoc, or though Teach Solais, but now with college being mostly online and the closure of Teach Solais, I think it’s going to make things a lot more challenging for them,” she stated.