One year on, it’s clear Ireland’s Marriage Equality referendum was about a lot more than marriage

Marref“There is no equivalency between marriage and sodomy and those who seek to make them equal are only codding themselves and others.”

So began a letter to The Avondhu in March 2015. The writer – a regular “family values” correspondent whose ultra-conservative Catholic views would make a board meeting of the Iona Institute  look like Sunday brunch at the Playboy Mansion – was scandalised at the then-imminent marriage equality referendum.

God was quickly brought in to back up her argument because, presumably, there’s little the Almighty can’t be rolled out to justify. “God is not mocked,” she wrote. “We need only to see the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to know that God will not tolerate homosexual behaviour.”

“Since it is a grave sin, we cannot support sodomy under any circumstance… In Ireland for the past twenty years, in particular, we have been drip fed the homosexual lifestyle.”

TV soaps, apparently, have been to the forefront, “softening up the nation with their carefully crafted  scripts so that our acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle, that which is so opposed to God’s laws, has taken a ‘soft grip’ on the minds of the people”.

(At the time, I asked the human rights campaigner and leading member of Yes Equality Colm O’Gorman if “the homosexual lifestyle” mainly involves, as I’ve long suspected, liking Abba. “Pretty much,” he replied, drily. “That and really, really nice shoes”.)

The Avondhu’s correspondent, however, warned “any opposition to the ‘gay lifestyle’ will earn us the term(s) homophobic, intolerant, ignorant and old fashioned. While many may be bullied into silence, Christians are called to witness to Christ and to speak the truth, uncomfortable though it may be….

“We could never have envisioned that in 2015, Ireland would be asked to vote sodomy into the Irish Constitution and be deluded into calling it marriage.” The correspondent saw this as part of an agenda she called “The new ‘Human Rights’”.

It really is a fantastic screed and it breaks my heart not to re-produce it in full. (Sodomy is mentioned three times – and five times in a follow-up letter – leading me to conclude that some people really do seem to spend a lot of time thinking about sex.) It is indeed, as the author said, “homophobic, intolerant, ignorant and old fashioned”. It is also deeply offensive, not just to anyone who is gay, or to anyone who has gay family and gay friends, but also to anyone who just wants to live in a republic of equals and an Ireland of warmth and kindness.

It is also, in hindsight, a lot more honest than much of the dog-whistle stuff about children peddled by the No campaign. The letter spurred some —

Please read on in my column in The Avondhu

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Column: Welcome to the Oval Office, President Trump

TrumpI had a sandwich and a coffee in the Amber service station in Fermoy a few weeks ago. At the table next to me was a group of children, eating chips and enjoying the lack of adult supervision. Four boys and two girls. I’d say the oldest of them was ten. I paid no heed till I realised that they were discussing politics.

“Guys!” said a boy who had until this point been throwing ketchup sachets at one of the girls, “Imagine if Donald Trump actually won!”

“Oh my God, Donald Trump is such a racist!” replied the girl.

“If Donald Trump wins it will be The End Of The World,” said the other girl with grim certainty.

“Um,” said a boy who was stacking his chips one on top of the other in a lattice formation, “You know Donald Trump won’t be the actual president of Ireland, ‘cause that’s like President Higgins’ job?”

(From the murmur of approval which greeted this remark, I suspect Michael D would get a warm reception from Fermoy’s under-ten community, should ever he stop into Amber for a feed of chips.)

“If Donald Trump gets to be The President Of America,” said the little girl, keen to return to the apocalypse, “That’s like he’s The President Of The World!”

“Oh my God that would be SO horrible!” said the boy stacking chips. “Donald Trump is like the Worst Person Ever!”

Beside them, I thought, given we have such clued-in children, then at the least the future of this country is in safe hands.

Mind you, they wrapped up their discussion by having a competition to see who could eat the most sugar, so perhaps their political insight should be judged accordingly.

Personally, I don’t know if President Donald Trump will be The End Of The World but I do think there’s a terrifying possibility that not alone will he be the Republican candidate, I think (and the bookies say I’m wrong) there’s a good chance he might well become US president.

I get rocks thrown at me every time I say this, but I think Hillary Rodham Clinton is a godawful candidate. Every time she points at an imaginary person in the audience, I hear a voice saying “Welcome to the Oval Office, President Trump”.

Clinton is the very epitome of the political establishment against which Trump has built his seemingly-unstoppable insurgency campaign. It’s hard to avoid the suspicion —

Please read on in my column in The Avondhu

What might rape culture look like in Ireland?

Things that cause rape

The Oxford English Dictionary defines rape culture as “A society… whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalising or trivialising sexual assault and abuse”. Wikipedia adds: “Behaviours commonly associated… include victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivialising rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by some forms of sexual violence, or some combination of these.”

December 2009:

“I just wanted to support him, just let him know he was not alone,” said Father Sean Sheehy, then-parish priest of Castlegregory, Co Kerry, after he joined a group of up to fifty people as they queued in Tralee Circuit Criminal Court to shake hands with Danny Foley.

Foley (35) had just been convicted of sexually assaulting a young woman a year earlier. Foley – then employed as a bouncer – had met his victim (then 22) at a Listowel nightclub and bought her a drink. After drinking it, she became incapacitated. (Later, she remembered trying to stop Foley from removing her clothing.)

Gardai found her in an alleyway, beside a skip, naked from the waist down, semi-conscious and covered in cuts and bruises. Foley was crouching over her. Foley told the Guards, “I came around here for a slash and I saw yer wan lying on the ground.”

CCTV footage showed Foley carrying her to the alleyway, so he changed his story, saying that she took off her trousers and asked for sex.

The jury convicted him. In his sentencing remarks, Judge Donagh McDonagh said Foley’s allegations about mutual sexual acts were designed “to add insult to injury” and “to demean and denigrate her further in the eyes of the jury and the public”.

Foley got a seven year sentence with the last two years suspended. (This being Ireland, he was out in three and a half years.)

Father Sheehy said “it seemed to me an extremely harsh sentence”. He went on national radio to extol Danny Foley’s decency.

Of Foley’s victim, Father Sheehy said: I don’t want to make any judgment on her at all, but obviously the whole situation must have been embarrassing, for the police to happen upon them and what-notShe’s the mother of a young child as well and, you know, that in itself doesn’t look great.”

Please read on in The Avondhu

 

Nobody wins unless everybody wins – Why Springsteen’s championing LGBT rights is no surprise

o-BRUCE-SPRINGSTEEN-570.jpg“Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them.” 

So wrote Bruce Springsteen last week, explaining his decision to cancel his concert in Greensboro, North Carolina. 

North Carolina had just passed House Bill 2, which – as Springsteen noted – “the media are referring to as ‘the bathroom law’. HB2 – known officially as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security – dictates which bathrooms transgender people are permitted to use.

“To my mind, it’s an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognising the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress…”

Those of us who know him would expect nothing less from Bruce Springsteen.

After all, this is the man who, four years ago, told the world of his decades-long battle with depression. I genuinely believe he did so for no other reason than to help de-stigmatise something which afflicts millions of people.