Teach Solais, Galway's LGBT+ resource centre, may be forced to close its doors in November if future funding cannot be secured, a situation which has led a local election candidate to demand the HSE rethink its decision over what is regarded as a "vital" support service in the city.
Social Democrats Galway City Central candidate Sharon Nolan is calling on the HSE to review its decision, after the executive turned down an application from Teach Solais for funding to cover a full-time resource centre manager, an outreach worker for the county, and running costs of the centre.
This is the fourth such funding application which has been turned down or been inadequate. AMACH! LGBT+ Galway, the group running Teach Solais, applied for similar stable core funding through the HSE over the past three years, but two such applications were unsuccessful, while the third did not meet the centre's funding needs.
Teach Solais, on Merchants Road, is reliant on funding applications, donations, and fundraisers to cover its costs. It is also dependent on a volunteer board and community volunteers to keep its services open for the LGBT+ community. In comparison, other LGBT+ resource centres across Ireland in Dundalk, Dublin, and Cork, receive ongoing funding for core staff, overheads, and other operating costs. No funded service is currently being provided in the west of Ireland.
'The loss of Teach Solais would do irreversible damage to the local LGBT+ community'
Fears are now growing that the centre may have to close. Ms Nolan accused the HSE of "overlooking the vital role Teach Solais plays in the health and well being of our LGBT+ community in the west”. Ms Nolan is a volunteer with the centre, as well as the chair of Galway Community Pride, and an LGBT woman, and says she "sees first-hand every week the necessary role the centre provides for the community".
“Rural isolation and mental health struggles are still huge issues within our LGBT+ community," she said. "Teach Solais helps combat this by providing a safe and accessible community space where people are not held back from costs or needs. It also has meant our community has more outlets as they do not need to cover overheads like room rentals and running costs to exist. With sustainable funding, they would be able to expand the outreach and supports they’re providing. Without it, the loss of Teach Solais would do irreversible damage to the local LGBT+ community.”
People Before Profit Galway City Central candidate, Joe Loughnane, has also called for the Galway City Council to step in and provide the necessary funding to Teach Solais. "So many community groups rely heavily on fundraising and individual donations," he said. "People Before Profit, both in Galway and nationally is committed to supporting community groups and spaces including LGBT+ resource centres such as Teach Solais which provides an essential community space in the city and wider county."
In order to highlight its situation, AMACH! LGBT has invited city and county councillors, TDs, and representatives from organisations which use Teach Solais, to a meeting in the centre on on Friday March 29 at 7.30pm. AMACH! is also calling on members of the public to contact their local representatives about the situation.