Gay hiking

Donegal gay walking group aims to tackle isolation

A new walking group has been set up with the aim of providing a social outlet for Donegal’s gay community.

The project was set up by Julian Cunningham who now lives in Milford after spending 20 years in London.

He set the wheels in motion in June after realizing there were few, if any, such social mechanisms already in place.

“I lived in London for 20 years before moving to Milford, said IT project manager Julian.

“One thing I missed most about city life was having gay friends, although I did come across a few gay people in Donegal.

“We talked about a walking group, I created the Facebook page and they invited their friends. It was eight months ago. »

To date, the group has 40 members, a number that continues to grow. They embarked on hikes along some of Donegal’s best-known trails as well as having social evenings together.

“We started with five or six people and initially the numbers fluctuated. We brought in three people, then eight and nine people. But now the group has 40 members on Facebook and we had eight walks and a bowling night just before Christmas.

Pictured, center is walking group founder Julian Cunningham, flanked by friends Jeff and Antoin.

Although set up with the aim of bringing together the entire gay community, so far it has been almost exclusively men who have signed up, an imbalance that Julian would like to see rectified.

“We have two or three female members, but we haven’t invited a female for a walk yet. We would like that to change and we would like that to happen as soon as possible. »

Age proved to be no barrier of any kind with interest shown by parties of all ages – from their 20s to their late 60s.

“I’m a bit reassured because I felt there were people there, they just didn’t have anything organised. When I moved to Milford I did a search for gay men in donegal and absolutely nothing came out in terms of the social scene there were no gay bars and people had to find each other through dating apps which was not ideal for making friends .

So far, people have traveled from Derry and Donegal Town to take part in the marches, which is perhaps another indication of the lack of facilities and services that exist for gay men and women.

“The group really aims to fight against isolation and it’s nice to meet once a month to walk, talk and relax without any pressure. It’s not like going to a party, it’s more like building a circle of friends and create a support mechanism for people.

“Since the creation of the Facebook page, I have been contacted by people further afield than the North West who tell me that they intend to join us on the visit during their holidays.

“I think people even know something like this is happening, it will be good for them and we look forward to getting more involved over time.”

The Facebook page is private but you can ask to be accepted by searching for Donegal Gay Walking Group and following the link from there.

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Posted: 10:13 a.m. Feb 21, 2022