Saturday, 13 October 2018

The real toll of the battle for LGBT+ recognition in Northern Ireland

It has been a tough few days for me at the end of the week. When the UK Supreme Court ruling was made, on International Day for Mental Health Awareness of all days, it was tough mentally to go along with the tough time I've been having physically returning to work after a long time off with sciatica.

It wasn't so much the fact that this time the opinion went in the favour of the McArthur family who run Ashers it was the comments, "celebrations", attack on the Equality Commission and everything else. What was worse is that many of the arguments were being retrod from the 5th or even 6th time since the event.

Now with a court decision in their favour those opposed to LGBT+ equality or even recognition and dignity for LGBT+ people were speaking as if nothing was ever wrong.

The same arguments that Ashers shop on the main shopping street of Belfast had been targeted, when it was merely convenient. That the appellant was only out for money, he wasn't indeed he was shocked to be awarded £500 in the original case, he only wanted the law to be clarified. That somehow promoting LGBT+ Equality is equated with messages of outright hate and should all be lumped up together is one of the hardest hitting.

You see many of us in Northern Ireland have been facing arguments that we are attacking religious freedom, despite many of us coming from a position of faith ourselves. Indeed Marriage Equality legislation and policy formation has consistently recognised that not all faith groups have the same opinion. Indeed we have always ensured that faith groups need freedom under Equal Marriage legislation to take their own positions, nothing should be imposed on them. However, certain faith groups don't envision this and even want to overstep into the civil marriage sphere over which they should have no control.

So when you see LGBT+ people in Northern Ireland showing despair with the interventions of Peter Tatchell it is because his comments gave powder to the Theocrats in Northern Ireland. Sadly although Northern Ireland poses as a democracy, despite the largest party being called the Democratic Unionist Party what we face and they are, are actually Theocrats. God's law by their narrow interpretation has to have authority over everyone else.

Not all Christian politicians take this view Alliance leader Naomi Long and her predecessor David Ford are two prime examples who face attacks from Christians and criticism from LGBT+ people in equal measure. They are an example along with other that having a faith doesn't mean attacking LGBT+ people and that faith and being LGBT+ are not exclusive sets, there is a subset of both.

So faith groups, publications and individuals rejoicing this week has a hard impact on those of us from the LGBT+ community, whether of faith or not, who try to accommodate them.

A bit late in the week but I wasn't in a good place to wish everyone good mental health earlier in the week, But stay strong people others are always there for you to turn to and you know who they are even in your darkest times.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

How LGBT+ Servers Should React to the Supreme Court Ruling

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

So today I read that the photography company that the Christian Institute hired to record their appearance outside the Supreme Court hearing, returned their money £267 and said it was against their morals to complete the job.

Now this may be a good thing to do on the day that the Christian Institute think they have started the fight back against LGBT+ equality but I think it should be the last time we do this to the homophobes and anti-LGBT+ individuals who come to us for service. Here is why.

Most normal people are well aware of how many LGBT+ people are employed the in service sectors. They wait your tables, serve you in a variety of stores, look after you in hospitals and hotels etc. The same applies in Belfast as it does in Manchester. Those of us who work in the service sector are not deaf, we hear conversations our customers have while they wait for our service, or even while we are serving them. Some of those comments are homophobic, transphobic or otherwise anti-LGBT+.

What I am suggesting is this, we say:

"I am L,G,B, T or whatever, so I disagree with your point of view. However, I am here to give you the best and most fabulous service you have ever experienced. If you are not comfortable with me an L,G,B,T or whatever person serving you, you can find another place that doesn't have LGBT+ people employed because all my colleagues here have my back as will those in other establishments who employ people on their ability to provide customer service and not on their sexuality or gender identity.

"Now, how can I be of service?"

It was just like with drafting equal marriage policy and legislation itself. Those of us who had any part in that have always respected all faith groups rights to come to their own view, some are in favour, some vehemently opposed and others are discussing where they should stand and opinions will invariably change with time. It is sad that in some faith groups the same respect for the views of others has not been reciprocated. This is another case of that.

However, to quote Michelle Obama "When they go low, we go high." That is the guiding principle on why I as someone in the service industry think this will have more impact.

Go on then folks, and continue to be fabulous.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Personal Statement is response to Theresa May's Statement

The Prime Minister has just spoken in Downing Street about the status of Brexit after the Salzburg meeting of the EU leaders last night.

This is my personal response and not in connection with my party positions or memberships.

The Prime Minister has continues to ignore the will of the people of Northern Ireland and just now also seems unaware of how the best interests of Northern Ireland people and business can be resolved. She has once again spouted the DUP rhetoric which is the minority opinion both at the time of the referendum and since.

As a result in my opinion Her Majesty's Government does have the concerns of the people of NI to the forefront of their thinking and are listening to a section of little England and not the reality of what her hard Brexit will bring about.

In my opinion now is the time for a poll on the status of Northern Ireland. I call on the Secretary of State to call a poll on the constitution position as set out in the Belfast Agreement before March 2019.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

The Ballad of Alexander and Ruslan (Let's Do It)

With apologies to the late, great Victoria Wood.

        Alex and Ruslan sat one night.
        The sky was clear. The stars were bright.
             The wind was soft. The moon was up.
             Alex drained his vodka cup
        He licked his lips. He felt sublime.
        He switched off Dacha Gardening Time.
             Ruslan cringed in fear and dread
             As Freda grabbed his tie, and said:

                       Let's do it!
                       Let's do it,
                  Do it while the mood is right!
                            I'm feeling
                  I've really got an appetite.
                  I'm on fire
                  With desire.
                 To see Salisbury's Cathedral's great big spire.
                       Let's do it!
                       Let's do it tonight!

             But he said:
                       I can't do it.
                       I can't do it.
                  I believe the weather's just not right.
                            This winter
                            It's sinister
                  Turns out it might snow tonight.
                  No timetable!
                  I'm unstable
                  I'd rather watch US Apprentice on the television.
                       I can't do it.
                       I can't do it tonight.

             So he said:
                       Let's do it!
                       Let's do it,
                  Get the train out there an boom!
                            Old Sarum,
                            Take care, um,
                  Don't on any ice go zoom.
                  This folly
                  Is jolly.
                  We not crash the plane like Buddy Holly.
                       Let's do it!
                       Let's do it tonight!

             But he said:
                       I can't do it.
                       I can't do it.
                  We haven't got the time of trains.
                            I'm older,
                            Feel colder.
                  If not snow what happens if it rains.
                 Your exploring:
                  Get's boring.
                  Russians in Salisbury will be left snoring.
                       I can't do it.
                       I can't do it tonight.

             So he said:
                       Let's do it!
                       Let's do it,
                  Go and take some Novichuk!
                            On some door.
                            We'll ignore
                  That's Russians live there bad luck.
                  Don't spray it
                  Why delay
                  Vlad will always find a way to deny it.
                       Let's do it!
                       Let's do it tonight!

             But he said:
                       I can't do it.
                       I can't do it.
                  I know I'd only get it wrong.
                            Drop bottle
                            Full throttle.
                  Someone innocent will come along.
                  Stop pressing.
                 No messing.
                  They might die as well and it'll turn depressing.
                       I can't do it.
                       I can't do it tonight.

                       Let's do it!
                       Let's do it,
                  Book to nights in London town,
                  See the sights and lose your frown
                  To quote Lenin,
                  On bed linen,
                  To roll in gay abandon thinking its the London Hilton.
                       Let's do it!
                       Let's do it tonight!

                       I can't do it.
                       I can't do it.
                  A two day trip would just look strange.
                            Train travel
                            Will unravel.
                  Why didn't we just prearrange?
                  We journeyed.
                  Too hurried.
                  You know as well as I do snow is only flurried.
                       I can't do it.
                       I can't do it tonight.

                       Let's do it!
                       Let's do it
                  While I'm really GRU!
                            Our Putin
                  Writen tourist tale will ring so true.
                  Live dreams
                  New scenes
                  Wear your baseball cap with your skinny jeans.
                       Let's do it!
                       Let's do it tonight!

                       I can't do it.
                       I can't do it.
                  I must refuse under duress
                            I feel silly.
                            It's too chilly
                  To go without me thermal vest.
                  Don't choose me.
                  Don't use me.
                  Donald Trump sent a note to say you must excuse me.
                       I can't do it.
                       I can't do it tonight.

                       Let's do it!
                       Let's do it!
                  I feel I absolutely must.
                            I won't exempt you,
                            Want to tempt you,
                  Want to drive you to Stonehenge.
                  No cautions,
                  Just standing stones!
                  Then buy some soup with those little croutons.
                       Let's do it!
                       Let's do it tonight!

                       I can't do it.
                       I can't do it.
                  It's really not my cup of tea.
                            I'm harassed,
                  I wish you hadn't picked on me.
                  No worries!
                  Why hurry.
                  The only girl I'm mad about's Edwina Currie.
                       I can't do it.
                       I can't do it tonight.

                       Let's do it!
                       Let's do it!
                  I already have the Novichuk.
                            Let's flyover.
                            Wear pullover.
                  We might even get some Blackpool rock.
                  Be mighty.
                  Not flighty.
                  Do it for the good of the people's party.
                       Let's do it!
                       Let's do it tonight!

                       Let's do it!
                       Let's do it!
                  I really want to feel so brave.
                            Let's go,
                            'Cause I know
                  To lose the beard you can just have:
                  Not delay,
                  What ya say?
                  Then we'll slap the "truth" on Russia Today.
                       Let's do it!
                       Let's do it tonight!.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Brexit Secretary Fails Northern Ireland #PeoplesVote

Brexit Secretary Dominic Rabb has told Northern Ireland businesses that trade across the border that in the event of "no deal" they should "speak to Dublin".

So it appears that individual businesses many of them small and medium sized businesses are going to have to make deals with our nearest EU neighbour. This is a dereliction of duty on behave of Her Majesties Government, it is throwing Northern Ireland and the many hard working entrepreneurs who have flourished since the Good Friday Agreement under the bus. The agri-food industry in particular will be lacking their EU supplements, some in this industry operate on both sides of the border already. But Westminster says talk to Dublin yourself.

This latest announcement about Northern Ireland shows a lack of concern from Westminster for Northern Ireland, for the successes that have come out of the Good Friday Agreement and the state of the Union itself. If we are being advised by London to speak to Dublin is this just code for go and join them?

I wonder what the DUP think of their partners telling Northern Ireland business to be prepared to speak to Dublin about the state of their business, jobs and production from next March?

Theresa May's government continues to show it is failing to understand the nature of Brexit, the damage it is heading towards and this is especially true of Northern. Everyone who is seeing this should now know that is it time to demand a Peoples Vote before this gets out of hand.

What We Really Deserve to be Better #WeDeserveBetter

On Monday I did make some comments on social media about the decision of the We Deserve Better campaign in Belfast disinviting Elaine Crory and John O'Doherty to speak at the end planned for 28th August.

For readers not in Northern Ireland Elaine works for the Belfast Feminist Network and Alliance for Choice, John for the Rainbow Project and Love Equality NI. Therefore the views of a leading feminist arguing for women's reproductive rights and a leading LGBT+ and equal marriage advocate were silenced.

I have taken some time to read through the threads on the We Deserve Better Campaign since Monday to get an idea of why some there have called the inclusion of these speakers "devisive" and feel that such "agendas" should not share the platform next week outside Belfast City Hall.

Firstly from what I have read the aim of the We Deserve Better campaign is simply to have a working Assembly up at Stormont. I agree with that as an aim. We need Ministers able to make policy, budget decisions and MLAs to vote on those decisions. On the face of it this is a noble aim.

The problem is and this is something that the withdrawal of these two speakers has brought to the fore. Health, Education, Infrastructure etc will all be and all have been up and running when we have had an Assembly in the past, even in the gaps when we haven't previously Westminster usually stepped in. On this occasion Westminster has refused to do anything, to make any decision on our behalf, this may or may not have anything to do with the largest party at the last Assembly Elections shortly thereafter entering an arrangement with the Governing party in Westminster to support then on key votes to do with Brexit.

We have not been told the details of that agreement but the inertia that has persisted in Northern Ireland may be as a result of the Prime Minister having to rely on DUP votes to get things done in London leading to a refusal to do anything to change anything in Northern Ireland.

However, the key is to have a working Assembly. The issue that the LGBT+ community and feminists in Northern Ireland have is that simply restoring the Assembly without some sort of reform does not make things better. The people who are part of We Deserve Better seem to think that simply getting the elected MLAs back into their seats in the chamber will allow them to make the decisions that can affect change on LGBT+ and women's issues.

Unfortunately both these groups are well aware of the short comings of the Assembly and have been for years. They have been shouting that we need better from Stormont. They have recognised that their views have for too long been able to be silenced, or debated but effectively stunted by one party using the mechanisms that can even turn a majority vote into a continuation of the status quo. This is the reason that there was anger on Monday when the announcement came about the withdrawal of these two speakers.

The LGBT+ and women's groups are used to and angry about continually being silenced, ignored, sidelined. They are continually used to hearing debates about their rights becoming a slanging match on TV or Radio often more of a hot potato than sectarian issues. They have been shouting for better for years. I have lost count of the number of times we have gathered at City Hall to demand better from our MLAs. We are the forerunners of calling for better governance of Northern Ireland, where minority rights can be trumped by a sectarian head count when those issues have always transcended the traditional sectarian divide.

We the ignored and sidelined minorities of Northern Ireland deserve better. Simply a resumption of the Assembly is not going to achieve that for everyone and therefore the "We" in We Deserve Better in not all inclusive. We appreciate that there are parties in the Assembly who do recognise that there is need for reform. We recognise that not all of the politicians in Stormont are the same. We know that there are some who are fighting for change that will make it easier to make things better.

Maybe this lack of government for all will help to highlight to others how their government which provided things for them when it sat, needs to do better for those of us whose rights are ignored and not advanced in line with the rest of the UK and Ireland, even when we have an Assembly.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

We will remember them: Oswald Cawley 22 August 1918

In addition to remembering my family members who died in the Great War, as this is a political blog I shall also be looking at the men who while still Members of Parliament signed up for the war and paid the ultimate sacrifice.

The first in this series is The Hon. Oswald Cawley. He was the fourth and youngest son of Frederick Cawley who in January of 1918 had been elevated to the house of Lords as 1st Baron Cawley after serving as MP for Prestwich since 1895 and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancashire from 1916-18.

His youngest son Oswald had stood as a Liberal in the by election to succeed his father.