Letters to the Editor

Northern Ireland a place apart when it comes to LGBT rights

To play politics with the rights of LGBT people in Northern Ireland is disgraceful. A British government survey of 108,000 LGBT individuals has affirmed that discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is still alive and kicking across the UK. Two-thirds of those surveyed fear holding their partner’s hand in public while five per cent have been offered controversial ‘conversion’ therapy. These results may shock some in England, Scotland and Wales; but they are all too recognisable for those of us here in Northern Ireland. The Tories’ LGBT Action Plan seeks to ‘advance the rights of LGBT people both at home and abroad’ – but consistently fails to acknowledge that Northern Ireland is a place apart when it comes to LGBT rights and equality, remaining one of the most homophobic places in western Europe. At times, the report even borders on tone-deaf optimism – emphasising that the UK is recognised as a leader on LGBT rights in Europe rather than addressing glaringly obvious domestic disparities. LGBT people are more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to experience a range of mental health problems such as depression, suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Evidence attributes the prevalence of mental ill-health to a range of factors including discrimination, isolation and homophobia. Yet, over the past 12 years, successive Stormont executives have failed to deliver on commitments to the publication of a sexual orientation strategy. We still do not have an overarching policy framework within which statutory bodies can work to promote equality of opportunity and tackle homophobia. The British government have turned a blind eye. Meanwhile, in the most glaringly obvious omission, the document fails to outline the need for civil marriage equality in Northern Ireland.
Studies have shown that the introduction of same-sex marriage has had a positive impact on the mental health of LGBT
people in other countries, allaying perceived stigma and internalised homophobia. Where Northern Ireland finally does get its one mention in the document, it’s merely to disclaim that many of the plan’s recommendations cover policy areas which are devolved. A hollow reminder that in the absence of an assembly and with Westminster abdicating their responsibilities in relation to human rights, Northern Ireland looks set to fall even further behind on LGBT inclusion.
There can be no doubt that the Tories have shied away from these issues to avoid any potential fallout with their confidence-and-supply partners, the DUP, who vehemently oppose equality. To play party politics with the rights of a minority group in a bid to cling to power is disgraceful. 

Portadown, Co Armagh


Nationalists being denied their democratic right

Following a recent opinion poll I suggested that the time was right for a border poll on Irish unity. 
That has since been echoed once more by Gerry Adams who confusingly continues to call for support for the Good Friday Agreement (GFA).
The GFA is a complete contradiction for those who believe that partition is illegitimate. In addition the GFA seeks to impose a condition as to when people living in the six counties can express their view regarding Irish unity in a poll – that condition being that a secretary of state will decide when they will call such a poll at a time when they think that a majority of people living in the six counties might be in favour of Irish unity. Given that Britain has declared its interest in maintaining the union over and over again, there might never be a time when a secretary of state might publicly consider that a majority of people living in the six counties would be in favour of a united Ireland, even though the present British prime minister would not be confident that such a poll would show a majority in favour of remaining in the union.

The GFA in terms of providing a model of government, a legislature has been a disaster. It has failed to deliver equality and parity of esteem.  When the executive was in place its legislative programme virtually mimicked legislation in England.  There was little in terms of local innovation and it simply lurched from crisis to crisis before collapse. Why would anyone in their right mind urge people to try and re-establish such a failure? It only diverts people’s attention from the real issue, Irish unity. By failing to actively pursue this objective, successive free state governments have ignored the wishes of the majority of electors living there. By refusing to hold such a poll, the British government is once more denying republicans and nationalists their democratic right and they are supported in this denial by unionism.

Belfast BT11


Don’t make a mockery of Church’s sacred rites

Dr Niall Meehan fails to grasp what the term – ‘a la carte Catholic’ describes (July 12).

A so-called ‘a la carte Catholic’ is one who attempts to ‘pick and choose’ what they ‘like’, or what suits them, from the Church’s faith and teaching.

A faithful Catholic accepts all of the Church’s teaching and aspires to live by it – but may often fail. This is not ‘a la carte’ but being, quite simply, a sinner.

Niall Meehan and Tom Cooper’s (July 10) attempt, to pin the label ‘a la carte Catholic’ on me personally, is ignorant and absurd. For even though, like everyone else, I fail at times in my aspirations, I believe all of the Church’s teaching with all of my heart.

As regards Leo Varadkar in St Mary’s College – the optics of the pro-abortion taoiseach voicing his views in a Catholic university college were simply atrocious, mischievous and profoundly disrespectful.

Nothing whatsoever to do with “academic freedom”. Everything to do with basic courtesy towards the community of faithful Catholics in Belfast and beyond. His comments caused hurt to many.

Furthermore and also, those, who are convinced of the truth of our Catholic Faith, stand within a sound and reasonable Catholic intellectual tradition that is well equipped to take on the ideologies of secularism and dispute with the proponents of anti-Catholicism in all its guises.

What we can surely expect is that the ethos of St Mary’s University College is respected and that it’s mission is not attacked, betrayed or undermined, by those who avail of its facilities.

Lastly, pro-abortion views are incompatible with faithful Catholicism. I have simply asked that those who espouse such views be honest with themselves and cease from making a mockery of the Church’s sacred rites.

There really is, in any case, no such thing as “a la carte” or “cultural” Catholicism. 

Belfast BT12


This is not something to be applauded

In ‘Threat to academic freedom’ (June 27)Dr Meehan refers disparagingly to Fr McCafferty’s anti-abortion stance, describing such a view as being ‘fundamentalist’. 

Surely no-one could deny that a child in the womb is either fundamentally alive or fundamentally dead, unless Dr Meehan is suggesting some quantum reality scenario of being alive and dead at the same time.

Despite his clear unease with fundamentalism he must accept that an aborted child is well and truly and fundamentally dead and that it has been well and truly and fundamentally aborted.

In the sense that Fr McCafferty is clearly and unambiguously against ending innocent human life, an ancient widely held and honourable value judgment, then I suppose his views could be described as being ‘fundamentalist’. But this is not something, which should be applauded rather than sneered at.

Belfast BT9

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Letters to the Editor