Activist community

Community groups to improve lives

Leigh Meyer, Belfast Site Manager and Global Head of FXLM at Citi, spoke about the importance of diversity in the workplace. (Stephen Hamilton)

Community groups came together to discuss the future of LGBTQ+ rights in Northern Ireland at a community lunch hosted by Citi in partnership with PinkNews.

Citi representatives, PinkNewsThe Rainbow Project, Cara-Friend, HERe NI, Belfast City Council and Lagan College came together to discuss ways to improve community life at an event at the Citi offices in Belfast on Wednesday July 6 .

Odhrán Devlin, business manager of Citi’s recruiting office, opened the event with a moment of silence in remembrance of Paul Brennan, an activist who worked with The Rainbow Project before his passing.

“Paul was an inspiring champion for LGBTQ+ rights and liberation here in Northern Ireland. Our thoughts continue to be with all of Paul’s family, friends and colleagues at this time,” Devlin said.

Devlin called on businesses to continue supporting LGBTQ+ people beyond Pride Month and urged governments to do more to advance LGBTQ+ rights.

Citi’s Odhrán Devlin at a community luncheon hosted by Citi in partnership with PinkNews. (Stephen Hamilton)

“We know that current government action at all levels is not enough. So listen up and start thinking about what you can and should do to support organizations here today,” Devlin said.

The inclusive approach has led to “growth and progress” at Citi

Leigh Meyer, Belfast site manager and global head of FXLM at Citi, spoke about the importance of diversity in the workplace, saying the investment bank’s inclusive approach has driven “growth and progress ” in Belfast and beyond.

Citi was recently named one of the Top 100 Inclusive Employers by LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall. Meyer said the achievement was the result of “many years of determination and focus” by people working across the organization.

“This work has helped ensure that our policies are aligned with best practices, that our workplaces are welcoming, and that we create a culture that allows people to come to work feeling authentic,” Meyer said.

He continued, “At Citi, everyone is encouraged to take ownership in implementing our diversity, equity and inclusion policies to enable an inclusive culture where everyone can reach their full potential.

“Our focus on inclusion extends to the wider communities where we operate, this is key for staff to feel comfortable coming to work as themselves.

Crowds gathered at a community lunch hosted by Citi in partnership with PinkNews in Belfast.
Crowds gathered at a community lunch hosted by Citi in partnership with PinkNews in Belfast. (Stephen Hamilton)

“As our presence in Northern Ireland continues to grow, we are proud to say that we have always been at the forefront of campaigns to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people in Northern Ireland.”

Closing his speech, Meyer said there was “no room” for discriminatory attitudes at Citi.

“We have a responsibility to our colleagues and our community to promote tolerance, fairness and equality and nothing less must be spoken out and action taken,” he said.

Community groups spoke about improving the lives of LGBTQ+ people

Anthony James, chief operating officer (COO) at PinkNews, paid tribute to Citi for listening to Northern Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community and spoke about the importance of its summer reception at Stormont. The event, which is organized in partnership with Citi, brings together leaders from across the political spectrum in Northern Ireland to discuss the future of LGBTQ+ rights.

Fern Fitzpatrick, trans and non-binary caseworker for The Rainbow Project, spoke about the long waiting times trans and non-binary people face for gender-affirming care in Northern Ireland, saying that these delays have an impact on the mental health of the community.

“Trans and non-binary people don’t just need emotional support, they also need pleasure,” Fitzpatrick said. They thanked Citi for supporting its swimming program which enabled trans and non-binary people to go swimming without fear of discrimination.

Jo McParland, Head of Education and Training at Cara-Friend, spoke about the importance of ensuring schools in Northern Ireland are safe and welcoming environments for LGBTQ+ students.

She spoke about the charity’s LGBTQ+ inclusive charters for schools and businesses, explaining that the only way to create safe schools is to come in and educate teachers and students about LGBTQ+ identities.

Fern Fitzpatrick of The Rainbow Project speaking at a community luncheon hosted by Citi in partnership with PinkNews.
Fern Fitzpatrick of The Rainbow Project speaking at a community luncheon hosted by Citi in partnership with PinkNews. (Stephen Hamilton)

Cara McCann, Director of HERe NI and Co-Chair of Belfast Pride, spoke about their range of funded and unfunded projects. She also spoke about the work she has done with John O’Doherty of the Rainbow Project to revitalize Belfast Pride.

Speaking about the future of LGBTQ+ people in Northern Ireland and Belfast Pride, McCann said: “We can’t do this alone. We need to do this together and we need our allies to support us as well. »

We need more LGBTQ+ people in elected positions

Mal O’Hara, a Belfast City Councillor, spoke about the importance of having LGBTQ+ people in elected office. He noted that Belfast City Council is not as “as diverse as it should be”.

He particularly encouraged trans, non-binary, lesbian and bisexual people to run for office, saying LGBTQ+ people can help change the wider culture when they hold positions of power.

Closing the event, Kristen Beattie from Lagan College spoke about the school’s Queer Straight Alliance (QSA), describing it as “a hub of joy and diversity”.

Beattie said the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a surge of people signing up to be part of the QSA, with LGBTQ+ teens needing support and community more than ever.

2022 event series marks fourth year of partnership with Citi PinkNews to draw attention to LGBTQ+ rights in Northern Ireland.

The community lunch was followed by a reception in Stormont, where leaders from across the political spectrum came together to discuss ways to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people.

The reception took place on Wednesday evening (6 July) attended by Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill, MLA Alliance Paula Bradshaw, SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole, MLA Alliance Eóin Tennyson, of UUP leader Doug Beattie and DUP MLA Pam Cameron.