Shakers who regularly read my posts will know that I have a very positive view of the situation for LGBT folks in the Republic of Ireland.
That’s not to say, however, that our tiny island doesn’t harbour its share of bigots and homophobes.
A Democratic Unionist Party member is under pressure to apologise for allegedly saying he is “repulsed” by gays and lesbians.
Ian Paisley Jr made the comments to Hot Press magazine and is quoted as saying: “I am, unsurprisingly, a straight person and I am repulsed by gays and lesbians.”
He also went on to say “those people harm themselves and – without caring about it – harm society”. However, he said, “that doesn’t mean to say that I hate them. I hate what they do.”
The SDLP’s equality spokeswoman, Dolores Kelly has called on the Assembly to censure Mr Paisley by tabling a motion with the Assembly’s business office urging members to distance themselves from the remarks.
“Ian Paisley is a junior minister in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, the department which is charged with promoting equality and bringing forward the Single Equality Bill,” she said.
“Vulnerable groups who are potential victims of discrimination should be able to look to him for help, not attack.
“If he cannot leave his extreme personal views outside his office, he must be kept away from any decisions which may be affected by those views.”
I’m embarrassed to admit, I’ve never been to Northern Ireland, even though the border is only 67 miles north of Dublin, and Belfast is only about 100 miles from here.
Everyone reading this, I assume, knows that Northern Ireland is a completely separate country from the Republic of Ireland? Different currency, postal system, form of government (Constitutional monarchy), legislative body, accent(s), etc. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. As such, when I order a book or DVD from Amazon UK (there is NO Amazon IE), I pay exorbitant postal charges to get it delivered to Dublin, whereas it would be free delivery to anywhere in NI. Likewise, many products on Amazon UK are simply not available to be ordered from Ireland.
Part of my hesitancy to travel to the north is due to inertia—I wish it wasn’t so, but it takes a concerted effort to get me off the couch and onto a train to visit new places.
Then there’s the fact I’m trying to pay off a massive credit card debt and travelling, especially in Ireland, is expensive.
But mostly, I hate to say it, the reason I’ve avoided the north is unease. After years of hearing stories about “the troubles,” I’ve been left with the impression that Belfast can be a deadly city for a person who gets lost, accidentally takes a bad turn and finds himself in the wrong neighbourhood. “Wrong,” here, defined by religious affiliation.
People have told me I’d be fine with my American accent no matter where I went. Well, not all of those people knew about me being queer and trans. Which brings up my next point. It’s not just religion that divides people in the north, the divide extends to all sorts of political issues and identity politics. For example, according to a friend who’s been there, graffiti in Catholic areas is noticeably pro-Palestinian, while in Protestant areas, it’s pro-Israeli. She said you’ll see Jewish stars and Israeli flags in Protestant areas, and pro-PLO slogans and Palestinian flags in Catholic areas.
So how does this relate to Paisley Jr’s stance on gay issues?
Well, I don’t know for sure how rank-and-file Catholics in NI feel about LGBT folks, but I do know that both Catholic nationalist parties in the north, Sinn Fein and the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party), are leftist. Sinn Fein’s position on same-sex marriage, for example, is the strongest I’ve ever come across. I don’t know the SDLP’s position, but it’s clear from the quote above and material on their website, that they support diversity and oppose racism and discrimination of any sort.
Ian Paisley Jr, on the other hand, represents Northern Ireland’s largest political party, the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party).
Ian Jr is the youngest (twin) son of the DUP’s most famous personage, “Dr.” Ian Paisley Sr, 81, an extremely Rightwing Unionist politician who assumed the office of First Minister of Northern Ireland on 8 May 2007. (The office of Deputy First Minister is held by Martin McGuinness, of Sinn Fein.)
Peruse Paisley Sr’s Wikipedia entry and it’s easy to see where Junior picked up his homophobia. Paisley Sr’s title “Dr,” derives from an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree awarded by, none other than America’s Bob Jones University. As well as being a long-term, outspoken—some might say, rabid—critic and opponent of the pope, the Roman Catholic faith, and civil rights for Northern Ireland’s Catholic minority, Paisley Sr has long campaigned fiercely against the legalisation of homosexuality.
On social/cultural issues, Paisley’s views are similar to those of the fundamentalist American right. He rejects Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection in favor of biblical creationism. He preaches against homosexuality and supports laws criminalising its practice. He and his organisation have publicly spoken out against what he views to be blasphemy in popular culture, including criticism of the stage productions Jesus Christ Superstar and Jerry Springer: The Opera. On at least one issue, Paisley shares views with his Catholic counterparts; he opposes legal abortion.
So, while it shouldn’t be surprising that Rightwing, homophobic, religiously-fanatical nutcases form global alliances, it is disturbing.
Oh, a poll being taken by the Irish Independent shows 68% of people think Paisley Jr should apologize. (When I first started writing this, it was 69%.)