Earlier this month, the University of Limerick (UL) became the first in Ireland to introduce student accommodation specifically targeted towards LGBT+ and allied students. Village Manager of accommodation provider Campus Life Services, Carol Jane-Shanley, stated that the program helps “people feel as safe as they possibly can in their own homes.” However, the ‘rainbow housing’ initiative has recently garnered criticisms from Mayor of Clare Cathal Crowe.
Drawing parallels to class lines, Mayor Crowe has stated: “I’m big on inclusion and equality, but I think this idea from UL is a bit daft when almost all students of the college are struggling to find affordable accommodation. On top of that, it’s hugely segregationist. Why put LGBT students into separate accommodation?”
In direct contrast, at the launch of the rainbow housing initiative, co-director of UL’s Hate and Hostility Research Group Dr Amanda Haynes had explained that “rainbow housing is not about self-segregation. It’s about giving LGBT students access to a supportive base in which to launch themselves confidently, proudly, and assertively into campus life.
‘In addition, the University’s introduction of rainbow housing sends out a clear message to all students, whatever their identity, that this campus intends to be a safe and inclusive space for LGBT people.”
A UL graduate himself, Mayor Crowe drew from his past involvement with the UL Students’ Union in a Facebook post: “It’s 15 years since I graduated from UL and I considered it to be an open and tolerant campus. This entire idea seems a bit OTT (over the top) and retrograde.”
In an interview with Clare FM, the Fianna Fáil politician asserted his stance as an ally to the LGBT+ community, emphasising his mention of a Pride event in one of his speeches. Still he described the rainbow housing initiative as “a bit misguided”, as they take measures implemented to ensure a safe and inclusive residential atmosphere “to a whole different realm”. Rather, Mayor Crowe commented that the university should focus on providing more general housing, adding that LGBT+ students should be “building resilience”.
LGBT+ activist Richard Lynch countered that “Everyone has an opinion about these things, and if you’re not an LGBT person, you probably do not understand the need for Rainbow Housing. He is not a gay person, he is entitled to his opinion. But I think the people who put this together found a use for it, and I’d trust they would have done their research, seen the need and tried to fulfil that need.”
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