The Rainbow Republic

A century ago on this island people in the North East of the country mobilized in an armed and treasonable stance against ‘Home Rule’

This was a modest measure of devolution to be administered on an all island basis from Dublin.

Their slogan was ‘Home Rule is Rome Rule” and they were convinced that Irish self-government would be a Catholic theocracy.

For the Protestant people of the North East of Ireland this was an appalling vista.

Once they had their own statelet after 1922 they imposed another type of religiously skewed governance on the Six Counties.

A century later the only part of this island that can be said to have rule by religion is Northern Ireland.

The landslide victory of the Marriage Referendum in the Republic on Friday should mark a historical watershed for ‘Catholic Ireland’.

Only County Roscommon voted ‘NO’.

The other twenty five counties delivered a ‘YES’ vote.

It was conclusive and final gay couples in the Republic can now get married just like straight people.

No biggie.

The main party in Northern Ireland is the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Created by the late Reverend Ian Paisley the DUP was begat in his own church.

It has given Northern Ireland politics an environment minister who believes that the planet is only a few thousand years old.

The same chap then became health minister where he promptly banned blood donations from gay men.

His successor, Jim Wells, continued with this practice.

This chap recently had to resign when he stated, as an assertion, that child abuse was more likely in gay households.

Although the world and her lesbian lover know about the oppression of the nationalist minority omnipresent homophobia has gone largely unremarked.

Over a decade ago I was running a mountain walks guiding company in Donegal. One of the contracts we had was to provide safety cover for Northern Ireland youth groups undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.

One expedition from various schools around the Strabane area was particularly instructive.

The group leader was a lovely man, a science teacher from the local grammar school.

He was English and very openly gay.

I picked up hostility to his orientation from one lad who, I was told en passant, was local DUP royalty.en passant, was local DUP royalty.

I remember driving down into Belfast one day from the direct of Larne when I heard the unmistakable voice of Irish Robinson.

The wife of the First Minister was explaining on live radio that, in her opinion, homosexuality was “…an abomination…”

She continued:

“…just as a murderer can be redeemed by the blood of Christ, so can a homosexual…. If anyone takes issue, they’re taking issue with the word of God”.

That was in June 2008 and as we have seen with Jim Wells MLA homophobia is, mainstream within biblical unionism.

Fleg protestor Jamie Bryson tweeted this as the result of the referendum was being announced:

“Jamie Bryson @JamieBrysonCPNI · May 23

If the ROI foolishly vote YES I’ll be proud to be living in the last bastion of Biblical Protestantism in the Western world. Our wee country”

His next tweet was even more instructive:

“Jamie Bryson @JamieBrysonCPNI · May 23

You can hardly separate some so called ‘Protestants’ from Sinn Fein with their overtly left wing agenda. Shame on them.”

The reality is that a century after the Larne Gun Running the Priest ridden Dublin state that the Ulster Volunteer Force was set up to prevent is a thing of the past.

My Republic is a secular state where LGBT people have a level of human rights that they currently do not enjoy in Norn Iron.

Two of our last three Presidents have been women.

President McAleese, a Belfast woman and a deeply devout Catholic voted ‘YES’ in the referendum and spoke with great love and pride about her gay son.

Of course not everyone in Sammy’s Wee Ulstur is a homophobe living in a re-write of ‘The Omen’.

However it is undeniable that biblically authorised homophobia is mainstream in Northern Ireland to an extent that is not found in this Republic or in other parts of the United Kingdom.

Only in Islamic communities within these islands would this prejudice be given the approbation of a holy book.

First Minister Peter Robinson once famously backed an Islamophobic preacher in Belfast.

In fairness Peter did say he would trust people of the Islamic faith to “go down to the shops” for him.

I hope that, in time that the forces of the Religious Right in Norn Iron are vanquished in the same way that they have been here in the Republic.

When that happens the aspirations stated in the Easter Proclamation of 1916 will be that bit closer:

“….cherishing all the children of the nation equally…”

Today I’m especially proud of my Rainbow Republic.

Hang out your brightest colours!

Discover Phil’s dramatic play Rebellion