Monday, May 11, 2009

Its Getting Crowded at the Altar.

My, it’s getting awfully crowded at the altar of gay marriage advocacy. We now have four LGB organisations jockeying to take the lead on same sex partnership rights. It would seem that NLGF is no longer content to wrestle only with the financial ups and downs of GCN but they too have entered the fray as the champions of same sex marriage. That makes three by my reckoning. MarriagEquality from whose website one would be forgiven for thinking that Ireland is the 51st state of the USA, (Mary Harney would be pleased- “closer to Boston than Berlin”), LGBT Noise whose idea of youth rebellion is to be just like dear old mum and dad, and then of course there is GLEN with their particular approach to same sex partnerships borne of their grace and favour relationship with Fianna Fail.

Meanwhile, in the real world, queers are contending with homophobia, harassment, poverty, bullying in schools, isolation in rural areas, abandonment by their families, denigration from pulpits and St Peter’s Square, victims of hate crimes and bigotry, queers are members of ethnic minorities, are senior citizens, have disabilities, have children and are afraid to come out of the closet. But they’ll obviously have to wait in line for attention because the money and the kudos is in the gay marriage industry.

And that’s really what this is all about, another LGB organisation wanting some of the power and action and of course the limelight. Gay marriage is sexy, working to support elderly gays in rural areas who have no support networks or challenging Catholic schools who discriminate against lesbian and gay teachers just doesn’t pull in the dosh or the guaranteed divadom that wedding bells do. Arrogance and egotism are the driving forces, neo-liberalism and we- know- what’s- best- for- you, the modus operandi. The result is an absence of listening, the desertion of the most vulnerable in our communities and the demonization of those with a dissenting view.

In pursuit of the cause of gay marriage, I have heard its public advocates undermine single parent families in order to extol the virtues of two parent same sex families (LGBT Noise). I have squirmed as privileged, middle class, white women compare themselves to the victims of white supremacy and of South African apartheid, demeaning the experience and abusing the language of those generations whose very lives have been on the line in the fight for black civil rights (MarriagEquality & KAL). I have watched as the experience of lesbian and gay families have been reduced to a bargaining chip to exalt the positions of a few gay men with aspirations to power (GLEN) and now the NLGF steps up to the plate in an effort to give itself meaning and a slice of the pie.

Civil marriage should be available to lesbian and gay couples, but so also should a range of options to formalise our intimate relationships as same sex and heterosexual couples because the right to have choices is a much more fundamental and democratic principle in need of recognition and protecting. I have a problem with the hypocrisy that underlies a lot of what passes for campaigning on the issue, whether it is the irony of ardent advocates of gay marriage who have exploited the absence of same sex partnership rights in their past relationships to ensure that their material gains outweighed any natural justice or, who pontificate about coming out after having sat closeted in public positions for many years, while others did the dangerous work of making it safe to be out and proud, or those who are so intent to sanitise being queer that they eschew any meaningful political connection with their own community.

No one seems to mention that since the passing of civil partnerships in the UK, including the North, there is no appetite for civil marriage. In fact the only people fetishizing marriage are the extreme right and the gay marriage movement. Strange bedfellows indeed. In fact, they both appear to draw their inspiration from the same school of dogmatism.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Thinking about Icons

GCN’s recent uninspiring or should that be uninspired list of queer icons got me thinking about the kind of people who have fulfilled that role in my own life:

I take my queer icons seriously. Maybe because coming out in 1980 meant you had to take yourself seriously because by God every homophobe within a 10 mile radius took the presence of a queer seriously. So seriously, they sent you death threats. And in a place like The North, where 1 in every 10 was much more likely to have access to guns than a homosexual orientation, you took the threats seriously.

I lost count of the death threats a long time ago, the ones that linger in memory are the more creative ones: opening up the community centre one morning to find that the early morning Brit Patrol had left a rather graphic depiction of what I needed to make me straight spray-painted on the wall, the postcard from Alicante signed with the pseudonym used by loyalist paramilitaries, sent to my mother’s address where I no longer lived, telling her that I was HIV positive and should be erased ( I still have that postcard), or the phone call at 3am in the morning to my family home to communicate the intention that a better job would be done on me than on Bernadette Devlin ( who had just survived an assassination attempt.

So having queer icons to respect, to emulate and gain strength from was a lifeline that kept me afloat. I was reminded this week of one of the earliest people who threw me such a lifeline because she has just paid a flying visit to Dublin. I first saw Peggy Shaw and her partner and co-performer, Lois Weaver in 1984 in the Old Museum Arts Centre situated near the junction of what was the nocturnal wasteland of Belfast City Centre and the entrance to the Lower Falls Road. Split Britches blew me away. I had never seen two mature, challenging, elegant, articulate dykes stand on a stage in the full power of their butch and femme personae to critique with style, intelligence and such incredible sexiness the society and culture we lived in that denigrated queers and women who refused to conform. None but the brave came to Belfast in those days and these two women were heroic. Split Britches were the first activist-performers I had ever encountered and my world stretched and luxuriated in the possibilities that their very existence presented.

In the years since, I have been privileged to meet, hear, see and be mentored by a panoply of diverse women and men who taught me to question accepted views, take courage in who and what I am, to understand the importance of celebrating the perverse and to revel in the unorthodox. People who demonstrate the art of the possible by using the experience of discrimination to envision change. They are my icons, not all of them queer, but who gave this queer faith- the strugglers, the dissenters, the architects of challenge and change, trade unionists, poets, musicians, journalists, inner city community activists and even an Irish President; those who speak, write and sing out, naming shame and calling it oppression, the questioners of authority who call out hypocrisy and refuse bigotry a hearing. Women and men who stand for the weak and the vulnerable, embracing those of us perceived as different and dangerous.

My icons have to inspire me, to teach me, to include me, to lift my spirit and keep me hopeful. And there aren’t too many of those chatting on couches on RTE daytime television.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Happy Dance

You cant see me do this- but right now, I'm doing the "happy dance" ( wiggling hips, waving hands in the air, big shit-eating grin on my face) cos my pal MP just won

Best Blogger in Ireland


We need more than a march

Well, we were out in our tens of thousands. Gardai figures say 100,000 plus but if ever an occasion bursting with potential was wasted, it was today. Where was the creativity, the spontaneity, the surge to build a movement, the taking back of lost territory and forging a new kind of people’s politics.

Marching bands from the Fire Brigade and Prison Officers Unions along with the community salsa band were all placed in the first quarter of the march. Where were the loudhailers spitting chants and slogans? We marched like sheep quietly, obediently shepherded by well-organised and extremely pleasant and accommodating stewards, sans anger and passion. Where was the maximising of the energy that got us out on the street, giving it voice and sensation in all its myriad possibilities?

Where were the major NGO and voluntary sector organisations to-day, apart from the half dozen small groupings who will always turn out reliably? Where were those NGOs swollen by philanthropic funds and an over-familiarity with government, the gatekeepers to representation, the professionalised class of liberals who have sucked the life-blood from what was once a vibrant, organic, model of people’s democracy and participation? Did they need to bring in consultants to tell them where they should be? Were they not interested because it was outside of their 35 hour a week paid contracts?

At the end rally only a few thousand were lucky enough to even hear the ICTU President (one of my favourite activists) and General Secretary speak because march stewards blocked off the street where the platform was located from the remaining 90,000 or more still finishing the route. Loudspeakers were non -existent outside of the cordoned off street and by the time the key figures had spoken and the rally dispersed, marchers were still flooding into nearby streets. I had expected to hear speeches not just telling us what the problem is- we all know that by know- but outlining actions and activities to take this enormous physical manifestation of protest further. Instead, we were instructed to put our placards in the appointed skips to prevent littering and consciously or not the inference was, that we wouldn’t be needing them again. Then we were thanked for coming. Sin e. We were marched to the top of the hill and abandoned. It felt like political coitus interruptus.

We, the people, the workers, the unemployed, the vulnerable in our inestimable diversity, were lined up, walked through the streets almost mutely and sent on our way home at the end. Goddamn it! The Celtic Tiger and its sanitised, single issue-focused culture requiring genuflection at the altar of professional expertise and polite dialogue has diminished and suppressed our instincts for innovative thinking and action. We need to do something beyond worshipping at the church of masochism where the talk is all about taking a hit and hairshirts and start singing, performing, demonstrating and producing the rainbow of possibilities that collective, organic change can bring. We need agitprop, we need localised action groups, we need a palpable and consistent sensation of our priorities that lingers longer than the hour and half it took to walk through the city centre.

We need a leadership that recognises that all of that and more must be encouraged, accommodated and promoted. That means an opposition leadership of more than one entity or power bloc, not just the trade union movement or political opposition parties- the times and our survival demand it. Yes, the trade union movement have put forward a 10 point plan of alternative economic recovery and we want the government to take cognisance of it, but we need more than a single one-off march and a few days of strike action.

We need a leadership to embolden the unemployed, the redundant, the anxious, the embattled but still employed, whole communities, families, churches, discriminated groups, jugglers and strugglers to act, to agitate, to create, to imagine alternatives, to envision the change and make it happen.

We got here because we failed to adequately challenge a corrupt government party, inept, self-interested coalition parties and their cronies in high finance and venture capital. No more. We have to use every means possible to resurrect first principles of social justice. There must be no more following the unimaginative, the sterile march-to-the -top –of- the hill- and –then-hurtle- down- again politics, no matter who calls upon us to do so.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Name them and Nail them!

Hello? Hello? Earth to Mc Evaddy... can you hear us inside that bubble of supreme disconnect with reality..your leaking gas out yer ass.

I have no doubt that Mc Evaddy’s Golden Circle pals sent him out to see if we would swallow anymore guff, painting them as national heroes who unselfishly shouldered the weight of carrying the Anglo-Irish Bank, no doubt until their pals in Fianna Fail bludgeoned the country into paying up and shutting up to bail them out.

Like the rest of the country,I’m incandescent with rage at the extent to which we are being treated like cannon-fodder for the big guns of capitalism. However, I honestly do not know why we are putting so much energy into demanding that Anglo- Irish’s Golden Shower of Bastards are named unless we are prepared to also put as much and more energy into ensuring that we nail them and their accomplices in Fianna Fail. They need to do hard time for grievous bodily harm to the country and its people.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Back to the Future

Definitely time for a new version of this ( preferably without Mick Hucknall), just substitute Reaganomics with Cowenomics.

I'm Still Waiting

Well, its been 2weeks since I sent the following email to GLEN:


Is there any possibility at all that you will provide information about current issues which have impacted on the LGB community in which GLEN is directly involved:

1. Perhaps some clarification on why the Chairman of GLEN continues to sit on the Board of the Equality Authority, despite the resignation of the CEO and half of the board, what is the rationale for this?

2. Information as to how many lesbians have recently resigned from the board of GLEN and the reasons for those resignations. Given that gender balance in GLEN was never a model of good practice, these resignations raise serious questions as to whether or not it has any chance of ever being so.

3. What response has GLEN made to the proposed Adoption Bill on overseas adoptions which makes no accommodation for same sex couples?

Like the song goes- I'm still waiting

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Same Horse, Different Course

In Britain, a prominent member of the ruling elite is caught using a racist slur against a minority and he is packed off to diversity training.

In Ireland a prominent member of the ruling elite uses a racist slur against a minority and we make him Minister of Integration.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


“This is not good governance and the situation must be addressed urgently. The chair of the Equality Authority should resign immediately, having signally failed to protect the interests of her own organisation and presided over the resignation of the chief executive and now up to half the board. I publicly call upon her today to do so. In addition, the tattered remnants of the serving board should also pack up their kit and salvage what little dignity they have left. Like the ancient Israelites, they are being commanded to make bricks without straw. We are not living in the middle kingdom of ancient Egypt. We are in a 21st century European democracy and they should land this task, which has been deliberately made impossible, back in the lap of the Government. The fraudulence of the Government’s pretended commitment to human rights should be publicly exposed.” Seanad debate 5/2/09

Senator David Norris yet again has risen to defend human rights and equality with all the gusto, conviction and eloquence we have come to expect of him. We should thank whatever god we pray to for his unfailing consistency in this respect, for the same cannot be said of some of our other LGB spokespeople. Norris was unequivocal in his condemnation of the Chair of the Equality Authority Board, Angela Kerins for her role as henchwoman in ensuring that the hatchet fell where it would do most damage. He has challenged remaining Board members of the EA to do the decent thing and resign rather than collude with the destruction of the Authority.

His undiluted disgust at their continuing to remain on the Board was refreshing to this blogger’s ears. Because no one else appears ready to name the hypocrisy that allows members of NGO organisations to provide cover for the destruction of one of, if not THE most important rights agency in Ireland. Niall Crowley was effectively pushed from his position as CEO, because anyone who knows the man and the depth of his commitment to equality, knows that it was untenable for him to remain in that position while everything he believed in and had laboured to achieve was being systematically demolished by the government and its plants on the EA board.

Some Board members have already resigned in support of Crowley and in protest at the disproportionate level of cuts incurred by the EA and the Minister’s outright refusal to consider any alternatives. Nevertheless, there are those who remain to give credibility to the pathetic husk of what is left of the agency.

While GLEN participates in the Equality & Rights Alliance established to fight the cuts and attacks on rights and equality bodies, Chair of the GLEN board, Kieran Rose continues to sit on the board of the EA overseeing the implementation of the cuts on the Authority. Rose claims he is on the EA as an individual. He is deliberately splitting hairs. The EA’s track record in promoting lesbian and gay equality is outstanding. Niall Crowley made LGB rights a priority from the moment he took up his post, by appointing a specific officer on sexual orientation issues and making LGB equality the subject of the very first report produced by the Authority. Kieran Rose as an individual gay man and as head of a national gay organisation has much to be thankful for in Crowley’s stewardship of the EA, but he repays him and the EA by actively colluding with a government that has made it impossible for the Equality Authority to ever be able to support and promote LGB rights to the same extent again.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Save us the trouble of pretending to care.

Ok- I give up, I cant find it! I dont want to play hunt the response anymore, its too frustrating. I'm tired of this game because there's no point looking for something that isnt there, thats just silly. There is no public response from LGB organisations on the new Adoption Bill. The Bill makes no reference to and no accommodation for overseas adoptions by same sex couples. So, can we also stop playing that other game where our self-appointed LGB spokespeople pretend to be interested in children's rights and same sex couples. It would save so much time and save so many people from having raised expectations of LGB organisations who have no interest in same sex couples and children unless it's politically convenient for them.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Viva Cuba

It is pretty cool to wake up on my birthday, the first working day of a new US Presidency and to know that the guy in the White House is someone I did my little bit to help put there. In fact, to-day had all the ingredients for a day of feeling smug and it was tempting. However, not actually possible when reality is leaving teeth marks in your ass.

Because here in the political boglands, no one seems to be in charge. The economy is on a one -way bungee jump on a fraying elastic, the dole offices are the only workplaces recruiting for staff, cutbacks are slicing through essential services, government politicians are stuttering and spluttering and when they eventually do make a response its total bilge, our equality and rights agencies are fast disappearing, only banks and bankers have been given parachutes, the weather is enough to induce mass suicide and the only thing we have going for us, is that we are not at war with anyone, yet. (Although it would be tempting to declare it on Israel, after all they say war’s good for the economy and they have it coming and we're a long way away from each other.)

So, next year I’m going to Cuba. I’m going to spend my 50th birthday there. Anyone who wants to come and celebrate with me is most welcome. I don’t know how I’m going to afford it, but … ( Scarlet O’Hara moment coming up) so help me, if I have to beg, steal, borrow, hijack, abduct and hold to ransom the first born child of every overpaid politician in the cabinet, I will find the wherewithal to party in Havana by next January.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Blessing

Unfortunately, the blessing invoked by Bishop Gene Robinson was not televised at the WE ARE ONE Concert in Washington DC to celebrate Barack Obama's inauguration today. A broadcasting decision that will undoubtedly stoke further controversy in the days to come. But before the Bishop's prayer gets lost in the arguments that will follow, I thought I'd post it because it is beautiful in its simplicity and truth.

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Opening Inaugural Event
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
January 18, 2009

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Order of Superior Entitlement

Back in the early 90s, as Northern Orangemen flexed their marching muscles determined to stride down Garvaghy Road, one often heard argument supporting their invasion of a Catholic housing estate was their self-proclaimed ‘entitlement to walk the Queen’s highway’. Quaint and anachronistic though the phrase, “the Queen’s highway” is, it was in the assertion of entitlement that the Orange Order demonstrated their belief that they were superior to their Catholic neighbours.

Of late, there has been no shortage in Ireland of arrogant, self- obsessed egotists promoting their over-riding indulgences. Despite their numbers, entitlement proclaimers are universally identifiable by an unfailing belief in their own superiority, breath-taking arrogance, contempt for the lower orders, in particular those who would question them and are unshakeable in their self- righteousness.

An example is one, Mr Rody Molloy, profligate extraordinaire of Fas who declared on the Pat Kenny show that he was entitled to fly first class anywhere in the world by virtue of the fact that he was Rody Molloy and CEO of Fas. RTE listeners took a deep intake of breath. Unfettered access to first class air travel and other expensive perks were, Mr Molloy felt, his due. His irascibility at Kenny’s questioning of his expenses, proved the extent to which Molloy felt that his own sense of inflated status should exempt him from any calling to account.

For outstanding chutzpah (Real Player required), it would have to be Mr Sean Fitzpatrick, who felt entitled as a captain of finance and industry and board director with Anglo-Irish Bank, to provide himself with an 87 million euro loan from said bank without any need to divulge his activity to the bank’s shareholders. His fellow board members appear to have agreed with him, dazzled no doubt by his overpowering aura of superiority.

More recently, when Beverly Flynn, fleecer of the public purse, claimed that she too was ‘entitled’ to an independent TD’s allowance in addition to her allowance as an FF TD, her pronouncement was made in a well- that’s- all- there- is- to- it- so –there tone. Entitlement it would seem requires no further explanation or clarification. Entitlement presumes that those who have it, declare it and flaunt it are beyond the reach of such mundanities as ethics or fiscal restraints.

But entitlement in the hands of true masters can excuse more than lining one’s own pockets or screwing the taxpayer, it can even justify the slaughter of innocents. The entitlement to defend one’s self as pronounced by Israel would appear to be the only reply it needs to defend the destruction of the Gaza Strip and the extermination of any of its population who get in the way. And unfortunately, they do tend to get in the way, given that there are so many of them and they are kind of, well, penned in.

Belief in one’s own superiority is essential to the understanding of entitlement. Those who are superior to others have entitlements, those who are vulnerable, dispossessed and discriminated against have rights but in the entitled world, entitlements trump rights, trump ethics, trump international laws, trump truth, trump life, trump everything.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Smell of Things to Come

Fearful anticipation has a smell all of its own. It smells like breath held a beat too long, the scent of anxious eyes and a body steeled to run. I know you are thinking those things do not smell but they do. It is the smell immediately before sweat breaks, the odour emitted before undiluted fear reigns. It is most marked in the agitated moments, sometimes the hours, before terror consumes all.

In a crowded street where the heave of human activity fills every available space and where there are more people than possible escape routes; on a darkened road, where every movement is a potential threat, in unlit homes barricaded against armed invaders while the rumble of heavy engines draw nearer, its’ smell is most pervasive.

In Gaza, its’ acrid smell will have taken up residence between the bombed out buildings on rubbled streets. It will be piled up in the sewage-ridden gutters and seeping into the corners of rooms where huddled children watch the skies, waiting. It is the stench of powerlessness, of living with terror, of knowing the inevitability of sudden, indiscriminate, violent death. By now, it is clinging to the clothes of the people, blanketed over the roof of Shifa Hospital, wafting down its blood-strewn corridors. It is wrapped around the hills of Beit Hanoun and Gaza City, pungent and unrelenting.