Current Affairs Politics The Irish Language - An Ghaeilge

Whether Irish Rights Or Gay Rights, No Equality, No Stormont.

Thanks to the Trojan work of the veteran journalists Eamonn Mallie and Brian Rowan, we now know the sequence of events leading up to the last-minute collapse of talks on the renewal of the cross-community assembly at Stormont. Contrary to the claims made by Arlene Foster and the Democratic Unionist Party, a draft agreement was in the offing, attracting visits from the premiers of Ireland and the United Kingdom, until the hard-right grouping pulled the plug on the bilateral understanding.

As speculated, the legislative principle of Irish language rights in the UK-administered Six Counties was conceded by the DUP, removing the main obstacle to the restoration of a power-sharing regional executive between it and Sinn Féin. However, startled by the intensity of opposition to such a deal from within the wider pro-union community, the Democratic Unionists withdrew from commitments given in the draft document at the very last moment. Arlene Foster followed up on this retreat with a very public rejection of any notion of a compromise deal in the press, using particularly ethno-sectarian language of her own.

As things now stand, interlinked bills on the recognition and provision of services in the Irish language, the Scots-Irish (Ulster-Scots) dialect of English, as well as more general cultural matters, were agreed in outline form between the DUP and Sinn Fein. Significantly, no agreement was made on the important question of equal or same-sex marriage. Despite this, SF was prepared to sign up to the limited package of laws and regulations. And that is a serious political and moral mistake.

Legislation for equal marriage, that is the right of same-sex couples to marry, is every bit as important in the north-east of the country as the legal recognition of our island nation’s indigenous language. Equality is equality is equality. We cannot hive off one issue to satisfy or fulfil the needs of another. For in truth, both are linked.

Irish lesbians and gays against the H-Block political prisons, UK Occupied Ireland

The individual freedoms of Irish citizens living in Britain’s rump colony on the island of Ireland cannot be abrogated in order to assuage the religious fundamentalism of a minority community in the country. If we are to remain true to the spirit of Bunreacht na hÉireann, if we genuinely believe that it is “…the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish Nation”, then we must uphold any and all rights associated with that entitlement.

Language and marriage equality must be accepted in one holistic agreement, not with the latter taken off the table in the hope of a later “fix” by legislative sleight of hand or an outside intervention by the authorities in London. The message from Sinn Féin, and Irish political parties in general, must  be: no equality, no Stormont. It really is that simple. And it is a message which will resound far more with international audiences, with people in the UK, Europe and North America, who while perhaps puzzled by the necessity of Gaelic rights will have no problem in recognising the necessity of gay rights.

14 comments on “Whether Irish Rights Or Gay Rights, No Equality, No Stormont.

  1. The DUP will never agree to equal marriage. I understand in the draft agreement between them and SF, it was agreed and expected that a private member’s bill on equal marriage would be introduced. The DUP said they would not introduce a Petition of Concern to block this; it seems that they did not say that if such a PoC was introduced by another that they would not sign it.


    • Yes, which is the legislative sleight-of-hand I was referring to. Unionists would almost certainly block such a bill one way or another. Which is why marriage equality needs to be there from the get-go as an unambiguous part of the deal. No more long finger crap.


      • I just can’t see the DUP as a party signing up to equal marriage as part of some agreement. I can’t see them even agreeing to it being included in an agreement where they say they won’t introduce a PoC, or even not sign a PoC introduced by others. They have, I believe, already blocked equal marriage six times; they aren’t going to change.

        The DUP might well come to some form of agreement with SF about an ILA etc. But equal marriage is to the restoration of the Executive and the Assembly as the Border is to the rabid, true Brexiters; it is something that simply cannot be achieved.


        • Then I would argue, no equality, no Stormont. The issue of Irish rights might not galvanise the international press or activists but gay rights most certainly does so. SF should use this to sell themselves as a progressive force, to redefine their image globally among the non-Irish media. Especially in the UK. And that is quite aside from the basic justness of the cause.


          • You’ve put it quite plainly; no equality, no Stormont. Let Theresa May, who is terrified of a snap election, try to explain why she won’t defend the rights of EU citizens (gay or otherwise) living anywhere in Britain post-brexit, to the world, all because she insists on pandering to some lunatic fringe right wing throw back party with their heads still living in the 19th century.


          • Who cares about SF’s image internationally? It doesn’t make a blind bit of difference as the Unionists answer to nobody but their own constituents, funnily enough.
            To be fair SF has more than enough to do in its own ward without trying to reform Unionist sensibilities on issues like same sex equality. From every perspective you really don’t want to end up with the Unionists equating Nationalism with the LGBT movement.


            • Because SF needs international sympathy/support in the bigger struggle to contest the UK occupation of the Six Counties? LGBTQ rights play well with the Western intelligentsia, and much of the chattering classes. For SF to be placed in the progressive box does help. The optics alone are worth it, especially counteracting anti-republican propaganda from the UK. Whether current or a legacy of the Troubles.

              And, simply put, it is the right thing to do.

              To be honest, I can live with the latter equation. Better to be on the side of the angels than sup with the devil. To mix my metaphors! 😉


              • International sympathy will only get you so far. Amnesty were squawking about the North for years to no avail. Brass neck is impervious to twitter.
                Nationalism and LGBT wouldn’t be the best of bedfellows for a whole host of reasons. From the SF point of view it means getting caught up in yet another cultural war on battlelines which suit the Unionists. Behind the Unionists (obviously), northern Catholics are the most conservative constituency on the island and party loyalty can only take you so far. As for the sexual equality people they should look at the current Irish language messology to see the dangers of getting too intertwined with political movements.


              • In fairness, Amnesty International is a terrible example. The organisation did its best to avoid the northern conflict for years. The very fact that the Irish branch was sidelined and matters were initially left to the UK HQ said it all. AI’s record on the Troubles is piss-poor. As for the Irish grouping, it was too busy fretting over communist freedom-fighter in Latin America to worry about its own people being tortured and murdered at home.

                Apologies, but that is a red rag to a bull for personal reasons.

                But the LGTBQ community in the 6 Cos, as diverse as it is, did look to SF to fight the good fight. A sense of betrayal is already evident among some activists.

                Honestly, I’d rather have have the global LGBTQ activist movement on our side than those self-satisfied prigs at Amnesty International.


          • The SoS, Karen Bradley, dropped a large hint in a written parliamentary answer. She said that if a (private member’s) bill was introduced, there would be a free vote at Westminster. This might be a way to break this logjam.


            • Maybe, but Westminster is looking like an increasingly cold house for Irish affairs. The Brexiteers are making all the noises. I wouldn’t trust it or its members to solve anything. Plus, with Rees-Mogg and company out to smash the Good Friday Agreement, it’s a place best avoided.


  2. maybe just as well for SF that the DUP pulled out.
    Anyway they can expect payback sooner or later from both the UK and Irish governments for humiliating 2 heads of state twice!! .
    Here are a few take home messages


  3. Graham Ennis

    Time for some nationalist intransigence. Resolute, peaceful intransigence. We are now right into what in Germany was called “Das untergang”, (The downfall. ) They are losing, and they know it. This is why they obsess on other issues amidst the final collapse of the neo-fascist Unionist power block. They are doomed. no amount of shrill screaming about Gay issues, is going to save them. The Nationalists need to totally focus on this endgame, as otherwise it could get mishandled. This is NOT to sideline the Gay issues. Quite the opposite. But it can be pushed to the front along with everything else, such as language issues, Nationalist advan relentlessly, so that a whole basket of issues, human right related, from an impenetrable barrier against the Hard line ideologies of the Orange Right. The objective is to prevent any renewal of power sharing, prevent the re-opening of the assembly, and force the UK Government relentlessly towards direct rule, which will be seen as illegitimate.After BREXIT, as the crisis intensifies in the North, further political measures can be taken to isolate the Unionists internationally, and prevent the emrgence of the assembly. As Lenin said: “The worse, the better.”. The more political and social disruption in the North, sort of outright renewal of the war, is all to the Nationalist advantage. The more social and political disruption and instability, the better. The tactic should be to make the North ungovernable. Our day will come.


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