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The late Dave Roche with his horse Zeus at his garden.
The late Dave Roche with his horse Zeus at his garden.
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OBITUARY: ‘Rosie’ added colour and lots of courage to the rainbow flag

David John (Rosie) Roche was born in Fermoy.

By the age of eight, he had moved with his family to live on an army base on Cork’s northside where his father served; having spent part of his childhood in Kanturk and his teens in the Glen, his early experiences encompassed both city and county.

The Roche family is a close-knit and supportive one who took pride and delight in “their” Dave.

That his funeral notice listed both names his parents had given him, David John, and the affectionate sobriquet ‘Rosie’ bestowed on him by longstanding pals, is a mark of his family’s acceptance and love for him.

Dave’s first career was that of chef and restauranteur, a profession he shared with family members and that he maintained, even after becoming involved in LGBT activism and Cork Gay Project.

Dave returned to education as a mature student in the 1990s, taking a degree in Social Science at UCC.

He thoroughly enjoyed those years and made more friends at all levels there, reflected by regular invitations to give lectures to students on Social Science and Youth & Community Work programmes.

When Dave Roche turned his attention to fighting for gay community rights, there was no greater champion.

The Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, amongst staff from Cork City council, councllors and friends who formed a guard of honour as the funeral cortege for Dave Roche, founder of Cork LGBT pride festival and CEO Cork Gay Project passed the City Hall as the Flag of the LGBT flew at half mast in his honour .Picture: Eddie O'Hare
The Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, amongst staff from Cork City council, councllors and friends who formed a guard of honour as the funeral cortege for Dave Roche, founder of Cork LGBT pride festival and CEO Cork Gay Project passed the City Hall as the Flag of the LGBT flew at half mast in his honour .
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Huge strides have been made in achieving rights for Irish LGBT communities, including the 2015 Marriage Equality Referendum.

Such achievements were built on countless years of challenging discrimination.

The enormous contribution made by people like Dave Roche, individuals willing to put their head above the parapet in less congenial times and risk rejection by the crowd – nobody revelled in standing out from the crowd quite like Dave!

While at UCC Dave threw himself into community activism, beginning a 20-year career as a tireless advocate for the gay community.

From Cork Gay Community Development Project at The Other Place, he supported, mentored, and empowered young gay people to be proud of who they were.

In 2001 he established Unite, a youth group for gay men, which later merged with LINC’s young women’s group Phoenix, becoming UP Cork.

Many young Cork LGBT people survived against the odds and have grown into beautiful adults as a direct result of the contribution Dave made to their lives at a crucial moment.

One of Dave’s proudest achievements was the establishment of the National LGBT Helpline in 2010 which sustains thousands of LGBT people and their families country-wide.

While the work of individual local helplines was invaluable, by 2006 it was recognised that a consolidation of resources could bring the service to a new level.

Dave was committed to the vision of a national helpline and continued to be one of the driving forces behind it. Cork Gay Project facilitated the move to bring seven local helplines (run on a part-time and voluntary basis) together.

The Helpline can now stay open seven days, has a dedicated website; further branches in Kerry, Galway, and most recently Kilkenny have been set-up.

Often described as “an LGBT activist”, Dave described himself as a community worker and the Co-Ordinator of Cork Gay Community Development Project.

In that role he reached out to many and diverse communites: LGBTI+ people, Traveller groups, youth groups, community projects and family centres, not to forget the local community dear to his heart, his homeplace in Terelton near Macroom.

Simply put, Dave didn’t believe in being in favour of “a little bit of equality” for some people, he was committed to social justice for everybody.

He was an active member and Chairperson of CESCA (Cork Equal and Sustainable Communities Alliance), a group of 18 civil society and community organisations working towards equality across all grounds of discrimination.

As a leader of the Yes Equality campaign, Dave spent months tirelessly commuting all over Cork county, making himself available to speak (with all that sonorous eloquence) wherever needed, ceaselessly supporting and encouraging small local YES Equality groups to canvass and campaign on the streets of their own local areas.

When the Cork campaign produced our own YES Equality Cork badges Dave made sure that every town from Bantry to Youghal had their own distinct YES Equality badge.

His car became a campaign caravan, filled with badges, campaign leaflets, posters, bunting.

Given his childhood in Fermoy and Kanturk, Dave sustained a real grá for North Cork; charged with securing a Yes vote in Cork county, he made it his mission to bring in Cork North West, a daunting task given the conservative voting track record of this constituency in referendums.

On referendum day, delighted as he was with the national Yes vote, he was prouder still that All of Cork voted YES – all five constituencies!

Dave Roche is rightly acknowledged for his LGBTI activism but the enthusiasm and commitment he inspired in so many others to work alongside him is without equal.

As his cortege left the funeral home in Mayfield it passed through an arch of rainbow flags held aloft by friends and allies from LGBTI communities nation-wide.

He was loved by this community. Moreover, he was awarded signal recognition by the city for his work across diverse communities and campaigns; a guard of honour assembled outside Cork City Hall was led by the Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald and included representatives from across the public service agencies in the city, LGBT Inter-agency Group and beyond.

The rainbow flag was lowered to half-mast in a fitting tribute, Cork County Hall did likewise as a mark of respect to one with such deep roots in the county.

Tributes have flowed in over the weeks since his death, paying testament to the passion and huge energy Dave Roche brought to everything he was involved in, whether campaigning, protesting, or gardening.

His activism was all the more effective for being delivered with a big laugh and sprinkled with good-humoured banter, usually directed at himself.

While we in Cork are all struggling to take in the death of our wonderful, life-loving, colleague and good friend, we remember his great heart and energy, and honour the enormous contribution he made to the city and region.

Dave is survived by his beloved partner Paul, and his adoring family mum Phil and siblings;

John, Michael, Michelle, Margaret and Bridget along with many friends.

National LGBT Helpline: 1890 929 539