A new public legal information clinic is to open in Donegal next year at the Donegal Women’s Centre. This pilot education programme is in partnership with LYIT Department of Law, Public Service and Education.

The project will empower the LGBTI+ community to learn about the law, with particular focus on areas of the law of relevance to members.

The project is being made possible through a significant grant achieved from the LGBTI+ Community Services Fund 2020 to promote inclusion and protect the rights of the LGBTI+ community. Donegal Women’s Centre received one of the top four awards nationally, from a total fund of €700,000.

The new LGBTI+ Public Legal Information Project will involve a series of workshops on legal literacy to help participants develop belief, capacity and community. The topics will be decided by the needs and interests of participants, depending on their legal concerns.

It will be open and free to the LGBTI+ community within Donegal and the North-West. Project leaders will welcome anyone over the age of 17 who identifies as non-heterosexual or non-cisgender i.e. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or otherwise with a particular focus on marginalised communities. 

Mary Maguire, Siobhan Cullen and Dr Bronagh Heverin launch the Public Legal Information, developing belief, capacity and community within the LGBTI+ Community.

Mary Maguire, Manager of the Donegal Women’s Centre, said this is an exciting new step forward: “As an ally of the LGBTQI+ community, we were seeking an opportunity to advance our partnership potential and build capacity in this area.  

“We wanted to ensure that our work with the LGBTQI+ community would be innovative and effective and would meet the specific needs of people who identify as women living in Co. Donegal.”

With that aim, Donegal Women’s Centre partnered with the LYIT to pilot a programme within a quality assurance framework. 

Ms Maguire said the project will provide a safe and confidential space for LBTQI+ people in Donegal and the north west to have a greater sense of community.

“Coming to terms with identity in a small town or village – and eventually coming out or transitioning – can be enormously challenging.  However, by being part of this project, it is envisaged that they will gain access to a greater sense of community,” she said.

Ms Maguire added: “This is the first time that DWC has been involved in this type of project and we are very excited to see how the project unfolds, develops and evolves over the course of the next few months. We are delighted that funding was allocated to Donegal and hope to build on its success in the future.”

Donegal Women’s Centre, Port Road Letterkenny

Siobhan Cullen, Head of Department of Law, Public Service and Education at Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT) said that the innovative public legal education project will have far-reaching benefits.

Ms Cullen said: “The Department of Law, Public Service and Education prides itself on community engagement and collaboration, working with numerous local organisations within the voluntary sector as well as the legal profession and law enforcement agencies. This type of collaboration is beneficial to our students who can learn about the law and legal policy through real-life experience. This also enables LYIT to support the local community in Donegal which is a really important aspect of our role as a higher education institution. 

“The Law Department at LYIT has a role in supporting marginalised communities as the law can play such an important role in enhancing social justice. We are looking forward to working with our partners DWC on this project and would like to congratulate them on achieving this significant grant.”

Dr Brónagh Heverin, Law Lecturer at LYIT, said the key benefits for participants will be greater access to the law, at no cost. The new programme will be customised to meet the needs of participants.

“Ultimately the areas of law will be decided by the needs and interests of the audience however potential areas of interest could include discrimination, equality, family rights, hate and other crimes, access to justice, and any others identified by participants,” Dr Heverin said.

LYIT’s Street Law programme will be at the heart of the new initiative.  This is a very successful form of public legal education used by the Department of Law, Public Service and Education in Letterkenny.  

Dr Heverin explains: “A key feature of the Street Law approach is learning by doing or through activity.  Third year law students under my supervision develop interactive and engaging sessions and this form of delivery makes learning below much more accessible and understood by the audience.  Since its introduction in 2015 we have very successfully delivered the programme annually to TY groups throughout Donegal together with outreach sessions to many other community and voluntary organisations, all with very positive feedback.”

The LGBTI+ Public Legal Information Project will begin in January 2022 and will be delivered through a combination of onsite at the Donegal Women’s Centre in Letterkenny and online. 

For further information about the LYIT’s Department of Law, Public Service and Education Programmes, please contact Siobhan Cullen: siobhan.cullen@lyit.ie

Email Dr Bronagh Heverin for further information on LYIT’s Street Law programme: Bronagh.Heverin@lyit.ie

Email Mary Maguire for further information on the LGBTI+ programme at manager@donegalwomenscentre.com