Ireland’s LGBT switchboard marks its 40th anniversary

30 Jan 2014

(Left to right) John Lyons, TD; Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD; Tony Cooney, director of Gay Switchboard Ireland; and Maria Keogh, volunteer at Gay Switchboard

Not many people know this but Ireland’s gay switchboard had to be called Tel-A-Friend when it launched 40 years ago because the powers-that-were prohibited the word ‘gay’ being used in the Irish telephone book.

In an indication that times have clearly changed, Pat Rabbitte, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, launched a new study by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland to mark the 40th anniversary of the service now known as Gay Switchboard.

Senator David Norris launched the service in 1974 to provide confidential support to callers.

“Too often we underestimate the power of the listening ear. It has the potential to turn a life around,” Gay Switchboard Ireland’s new advocacy message states.

The study by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland suggests that LGBT people are seven times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.

In addition, a recent UK report titled Youth Chances was launched in January. That report highlights that more than half of young gay people suffer with mental health issues, with more than 40pc having considered suicide at some stage.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years