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Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Shock Orange claim: Gays endanger union

Last Friday night, Orange Order bigwig Drew Nelson gave an oration to the broad masses of Newtownards on how, to use loyalism’s favourite phrase of the moment, Norn Iron was becoming a “cold house” for Prods. In other words, the Fenians are getting everything and we are now the oppressed people. (Not, of course, that the Fenians were oppressed in the first place, and, even if they were, it’s no more than they deserved.)

Unfortunately, the News Letter’s website isn’t the most navigable, so I haven’t yet been able to find a link to the big spread the Voice of Bigotry did on Saturday morning on the theme of how God’s Wee Ulster was being steadily de-Orangeised. Bro Nelson’s main complaint, among many, was that the DUP had failed to secure as part of the St Andrew’s talks the Loyal Orders’ statutory right to have coat-trailing marches in areas where they weren’t wanted. And that really is what the Orangemen mean by the “right to march” – anybody with the misfortune to live in a Protestant area will be well aware that Orange marches are far from being an endangered species.

Bro Nelson, though, had a few other strings to his bow. There was an entirely predictable gripe about the promised Irish Language Act, which the Prodocracy seem to think will be the end of civilisation, while conversely the luvvie wing of Sinn Féin Nua are almost orgasmic with expectation. I do wish people would have a look at what the Welsh Language Act has (or hasn’t) achieved before getting their knickers in a twist about legislation which could well be a good deal weaker.

One notable thing was that Bro Nelson got fairly stuck into the new Sexual Orientation Regulations. Unionism is on a bit of a homophobic binge over this harmless bit of legislation, which for some perplexing reason it sees as specifically “anti-Protestant”. In the debate on the regulations in the Transitional Assembly it was noticeable how the 39-39 tied vote broke down. In favour of equality were the SDLP, the Provos, Alliance and the late David Ervine. Opposed were the DUP, the OUP and, with supreme bathos, Paul “Sports Massage” Berry. Not a single representative of mainstream unionism was prepared to accept that the gay community had a right to equal treatment. This was carried over into the House of Lords debate, where the assault on the regulations was led by the DUP’s Maurice Morrow (surely proof that Mr Tony will dish them out to anybody).

There has been some discussion on this blog about whether unionism is necessarily sectarian. This poses the interesting question – is unionism capable of comprehending the concept of equality? You see, it is possible to imagine an ideal non-sectarian unionism. The “civic unionism” touted around the op-ed pages by the Cadogan Group and Cream Bun McCartney, with its copious references to the “modern” and “multicultural” UK state in opposition to the “backward” Banana Republic, is of this ilk. But when you take a look at actually existing unionism, the picture is a lot less pretty. Bro Nelson’s view that equal rights for gays is anti-Protestant seems of a piece with Cllr Ruth Patterson’s statement after the anti-Chinese pogrom in South Belfast that the Chinese were compromising the “Protestant character” of the area.

I also look forward to seeing what Steven King and Jeff Dudgeon have to say on the matter. After all, it’s not for nothing that these boys have propagandised so fervently for “civic unionism”. Speak up! All those closeted gays in the Orange need all the moral support they can get.


Paul said...

But when you take a look at actually existing unionism, the picture is a lot less pretty.

Again we're talking about the NI political representatives of Unionism and the OO and not "Unionism" per se. In terms of its commitment to multiculturalism and equal rights for all, the UK stands high in the European Premier League. If I say that those are two reasons why I'm proud to remain a part of the UK, then I'm building *my* case for the Union on completely different ground to the bigots- but I'm still promoting Unionism

Bro Nelson’s view that equal rights for gays is anti-Protestant seems of a piece with Cllr Ruth Patterson’s statement after the anti-Chinese pogrom in South Belfast that the Chinese were compromising the “Protestant character” of the area.

All of the churches in Ireland and indeed the ROI as a state, have very backward views on homosexuality. Does that we mean we label Christianity (ie the genuine accept no substitute brand promoted by yer man from Nazareth) or all Irish nationalism as reactionary?
(Whataboutery I know...sorry, but you can see the point I'm making, how a fair proportion of its proponents express their view of unionism shouldn't necessarily define Unionism as a philosophy as bigotted, actually a true Unionist would want NI to be delivered out of the backward moral conservative morass into a place something approaching the society on the mainland.)

And yes, liberals within Unionism should start making their voice heard a helluva louder on issues of social morality.

The Great Wee Azoo said...

Paul, all of the churches are anti-gay, but on a policy level, unionist parties are extremely anti-gay. DUP and Ulster Unionists constantly vote against any modicum of gay reform, indicating an unwillingness to break away from the Biblical rhetoric which I believe contaminates Unionist politics in the north. Unionists have to prove themselves on the equality front. It hasn't happened yet, which indicates they prefer to look backwards to the bad days of the one-party state rather than embrace a more pluralistic future.

Paul said...

"Unionists have to prove themselves on the equality front"

All 800,000 of them? Or just the parties and the OO?

The Great Wee Azoo said...

Paul, let's not play with semantics. Since I was writing about policy and voting against gay reform, I'd assume you would gather I was talking about the Unionist political parties, whose votes come from within the 800,000 Unionists you mention. I'm not sure how many of the 800,000 actually bother to vote for Unionist parties, but those that do obviously support their stance, or they wouldn't vote in the first place.

Paul said...

I was talking about the Unionist political parties, whose votes come from within the 800,000 Unionists you mention. I'm not sure how many of the 800,000 actually bother to vote for Unionist parties

Well, that was basically at the root of the point I'm making.

The UUP and DUP have extremely reactionary policies on most moral issues, as I result I don't vore for them. I still belive in the Union and am obv therefore a Unionist, yet I get classed according to the logic of the original post and your comment with racists like Patterson and homophobes like ...well, choose form a cast of thousands.

Another point, people vote for a party, they therefore agree with every single thing that party stands for or, in a NI context do they vote for a party, be it the DUP, SDLP, SF or the UUP for purely sectarian reasons?

Following on from that, would you say every single person voting for SF and SDLP believe in both party's "progressive" stance on such social issues? If that's the case, then why is Derry the centre of gay-bashing in NI (check the stats)? If you don't believe me, try promoting the concept of the *rainbowism* in West Belfast, I'll be interested to see how far you get up the Falls befire getting the first bottle broken over your head.

It's too easy, too lazy to consistently paint *Unionism* as the sole reason for all bigotry in NI. NI is a reactionary society, full stop.

The Great Wee Azoo said...

Regarding your comment about 'Rainbowism' on the Falls, I was one of a small group who carried a gay rights banner up the Falls during the West Belfast Festival parade a few years ago - to well received applause. I was also involved in the organising of a gay rights debate in Conway Mill some years back. No bottles were smashed over heads.

Paul said...

Well, maybe you're right and the Falls is more enlightened in these matters than I remembered.

You might find this article interesting:,12592,1499844,00.html

Paul said...,12592,1499844,00.html

Sorry, here's the link.

Paul said...

God, typical Guardian! 3rd time lucky>

Brian McDermott seeks refuge in a cramped back room he calls his "prison cell". With a bed, a garden chair and a portable television squeezed in, it is the only place in his flat in Derry's Bogside where the 54-year-old feels safe. His front door has been boarded up and triple-locked after a makeshift bomb blew out the letterbox.
Mr McDermott has not left his flat after 2pm for 16 weeks, afraid he will be attacked for being gay.

Article continues


His front window - previously pelted with eggs - has been shattered by a paint bomb. It was the seventh homophobic attack in two years since his nose was broken by a gang of men shouting "queer bastard" as he walked past Derry's picturesque Guildhall.
As tourists on Northern Ireland's Troubles tours arrive to admire the Bogside's republican murals, they photograph Mr McDermott's battered window. It probably seems quaint. But Free Derry Corner, a holy ground in the struggle for equal rights, was never supposed to symbolise the criminal homophobia that threatens to spiral out of control in the province.

"I don't have any quality of life," Mr McDermott said. "I only venture a short walk to buy a newspaper. I went to the theatre once, but got a taxi straight there and back. I feel like a prisoner. I can't even face sitting in the backyard any more."

In post-ceasefire Northern Ireland, where sectarian and racist attacks are rapidly rising, homophobic violence is the latest grim reality of a society where being different can get you killed.

There have been an estimated five homophobic murders in the past six years. In south Belfast a 31-year-old civil servant was stabbed and battered to death with a wheel-brace by two teenage boys out on what a judge called a "queer bashing expedition". In the past year homophobic incidents reported to police have more than doubled to almost 200, including two attempted murders and five threats or conspiracy to murder. One man was stabbed and battered with a bedside locker and an iron in the bedroom of his home in Derry.

In a deeply conservative society, where the leader of the largest political party once led a Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign, homophobia is still seen as a "respectable and acceptable prejudice", according to Belfast's Institute for Conflict Research. Only 27% of gay, lesbian or bisexual people in Northern Ireland feel safe walking down the street at night.

In Derry, homophobic incidents have increased by 300% in the past year. It is now dubbed the "gay bashing capital" of Northern Ireland. Gay men tell of violent attacks in the street and death threats sent to their homes in the form of mass cards. One gay man on a Derry housing estate bolts two planks of wood across his front door every night for protection. Another couple have rigged up CCTV around their house but still take turns to sleep.

A gay man recently needed stitches after an attacker leapt at him and bit a chunk out of his face as he stood outside a chip shop in the Waterside area of the city. Cars are have been daubed with slogans, windows shattered and excrement smeared on front doors. A voluntary worker was driven out of his way by a taxi driver calling him a "queer, faggot bastard". Those on the receiving end have ranged from gay teenagers to pensioners.

One reason for the rise in the number of recorded homophobic attacks is the gay community's growing confidence in reporting abuse to the police. Community groups and police are working to increase this. But campaigners also say attacks are becoming more common and brutal.


"The true picture is much worse than the figures lead you to believe," said David McCartney of Derry's Rainbow Project. "There has been an increase in the ferocity of attacks. People have been trailed after leaving a gay club and attacked in the street.

"There is no discernible pattern to suggest it is organised. It's a reflection of homophobia in society."

He said many victims were leaving Northern Ireland. "It's a kind of ethnic cleansing."

In south Belfast, a lesbian couple had to leave their home after repeated harassment and intimidation.

Others have said paramilitary groups were behind the threats they received.

One man was stabbed with a screwdriver outside a gay club in Belfast in an attack which symbolised the confused nature of much of the province's hate crime. With his assailant shouting, "Die you Fenian bastard," the gay Protestant victim was not sure whether to report the attack as sectarian or homophobic.

The gay scene is growing. Belfast's Gay Pride march is in its 15th year and every summer it files politely past the religious protesters with their megaphones.

But parliament's Northern Ireland affairs committee has warned that if the government and police do not improve their handling of the "rising tide" of homophobic, racist and sectarian attacks in the province, "hate crime may spiral out of control with extremely serious consequences for the pace of social improvement".

Police clearance rates for homophobic crime stand at 22.5%, which the committee of MPs found "unacceptably low".

James Knox of Belfast's Coalition on Sexual Orientation said the violence was a product of the post-Troubles society. "The Catholic-Protestant situation is starting to minimise and people are just looking for another excuse to have a go at somebody else," he said. "Ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, gays and lesbians are easy targets.

The Great Wee Azoo said...

Of course you are going to get homophobia, racism, sexism etc in many places. Just because there are some enlightened views in dark places doesn't mean a brick isn't going to come through the window. I remember it wasn't that long ago that Asian nurses living in west Belfast and working in the Royal Victoria Hospital were getting a terrible time from local Morlocks.