PHELIM TRIUMPHANS, IRIS REDUX?

The Brighton-based magazine 3SIXTY dealt with Iris Robinson in its Aug 08 edition. The front cover carries a sub-heading God Bless Iris Robinson. Which is meaningless? Possibly it is post-modern irony. Which is as dead as the Dodo. On page 9 there is a short report about Iris’s falling over her mouth comparing homosexuality – to its discredit – with pedophilia, in a Westminster debate. The headline is Provincial attitudes get worse. Hasn’t Brighthelmstone got grand since it became the City of Brighton (and Hove)? ’Provincial attitudes’ begorrah!

Local attitudes in Northern Ireland have not got worse. Iris may well have clarified such matters for a majority in the place; and not in favour of happy-clappy, glazed-eyed Pentecostalism. An article Oh Please, Mrs. Robinson is billed in the Contents on page 3. It has the sub-heading How has Iris Robinson’Seanti-gay comments affected the gay community? It appears on page 15, under the title Oh Please, Mrs. Robinson. There is no explanation for the emphasis on ‘Oh Please’. Is it an actual plea? Is it more irony? Did someone’s mouse take on a life of it’s own? The article is authored by Phelim Mac Cafferty (Media Officer for LGBT Greens, www.lgbtgreens.org.uk), whether this means local Brighton Greens or the Party ‘nationally’, whatever that may imply on England’s south coast, is not made clear. Phelim Mac Cafferty is “somewhat of a refugee from ‘the North’” (‘of Ireland’ is presumably to be understood – there is a distinctive ‘North’ of England). He does not remember the place clearly. He claims the Save Ulster from Sodomy slogan “was emblazoned in ten-foot tall letters across the Victorian dome of Belfast City Hall”. Phelim probably recalls the Ulster Says ‘No’! banner (slightly obscured under the dome) of the City Hall in the wake of the Hillsborough Accord (sic) of 1984.

Sodomy law had been brought into line with what NIGRA (the NI Gay Rights Association) described as the “insulting and discriminatory” laws extant in the rest of the UK state – in 1982. NIGRA had sponsored Jeff Dudgeon’s successful case (on his right to privacy) at the European Court of Human Rights. (The ‘Dudgeon Judgment’ has been quoted in the Supreme Courts of Romania, Columbia, the USA, and other states). The law (the 1967 Act) was extended to Northern Ireland in 1982, by Order in Council. The delay was due to Thatcher (latterly, author of Clause 28).

The money for the ‘Strasbourg Case’ came from places as far apart as Seattle and Sydney (with Brighton supplying the most generous set of contributions). This context should be kept in mind, (as should the boycott of ‘the North’ by the UK’s Parties of State), when discussing Iris Robinson, the DUP, or ‘Northern Ireland’. In 1994 NIGRA plugged the gap that opened between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK state, on the matter of sodomy law, in a matter of weeks. That (and the influence of Mo Mowlem), is probably why we have been included in further changes in the law.

ON GOOD FRIDAY “This is quite apart from the ‘equality’ measurements included in the Good Friday Agreement (alias the Government of Northern Ireland Act 1998). The LGBT community was included in the equality agenda on the insistence of Dr. Steven King, an Ulster Unionist representative on the committee helping to draw-up the overall Agreement. He is a ‘Nigra-person’. The DUP (which was a minority party on Belfast City Council during the campaign against the Hillsborough Accord) have to obey what is now the law of the land. They are making valiant efforts not to obey the law, by withholding funds from various Gay organisations. It will not work, as the rest of the Assembly parties (including the one Green MLA) are largely committed to the ‘equality’ agenda. The DUP, of course, got to be the majority Unionist party by being more-Loyal-than-thou, and claiming that it would never (never, never ” never) share power with ‘Sinn Fein / IRA’ as they (interminably) described the people they are now ” sharing power with. It is more than conceivable that the DUP is grandstanding on Gay matters to save its (political) arse. (See the article DUPlicity? in the September edition of this publication). Phelim makes a number of relatively small points that need to be cleared up. He writes, “last year” bigots threw dog excrement at Pride marchers”. This is not accurate. It is difficult to know where such disinformation comes from. Belfast does not really have “a large turnout from the Bible-basher brigade”, and now (try not to gloat) they are in two separate protests. ((See Out On Our Geg?) for a report of this year’s Belfast Pride dander). This is partly because the Stop the Parade (they were too bigoted to mention Gay or LGBT, or Pride) Campaign insisted that the Pride Committee appear before the Parades Commission. The tactic blew up in their face – they – as well as the queers, had to obey the rules led down by the Commission. (As noted in the Out On “? article, they find obeying the rules somewhat trying). It should be said that the police, the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary), then PSNI (Police Service of NI) have been businesslike-to-friendly on all of the Pride danders since 1991.

Is there really “documented” evidence that there is more anti-Gay violence in Northern Ireland than in other parts of these islands? When the Dunbar Link pub was bombed in 1989, the metropolitan Gay press took a fairly detached attitude to the matter – then Soho’s Admiral Duncan was bombed a decade later. Simultaneously a detachment of religious head-bangers led by Baroness Young surfaced in the House of Lords to oppose Gay law reform. If some academic or journalist went to the trouble of documenting England, Scotland or Wales (or the Republic) the differences between those enlightened landSeand ‘our wee Ulster’ might not be that significant.

(I recall black’n’white telly from the early 1960s. Damp-eyed social workers used to appear (relatively) regularly to discuss domestic violence. It was called ‘wife-beating’ in those far-off days. The rubric was always “Of course, the Irish are the worst”. (It was the ‘of course’ that always got me). When some sort of organised examination of the problem was actually engaged-in, the working class Irish were near the bottom of the list). In the lee of the first ceasefire in 1994, the incidence of anti-Gay violence shot up. So did violence against women and against ethnic minorities. We should get out of the habit of tunnel-vision in regard to our own problems and position in society. Even in Brighton.

STRAW BERRY (?)

Phelim Mac Cafferty sneers at Paul Berry “a DUP councillor for Lisburn”, it was Armagh, and he was also an MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) which doesn’t legislate. Berry was “allegedly caught red-handed using the services of a male prostitute” in 2005″. Phelim “salute[s]” the rent-boy (masquerading as a ‘masseur’) “who exposed Berry’s activities”. It was to the tabloid Sunday World, which has a quite extensive history of similar homophobic ‘exposures’ (some of which have driven victims to suicide). This incident is used to attack the DUP as “not only homophobic but also hypocritical”, which is fair enough. But surely they go together like peaches and cream everywhere?

More to the point, Berry wrote in a letter to a constituent that he did not agree with the homophobic elements in DUP policy. There are a number of others in the DUP who find the obsession with what queers get up to irritating as well as socially inconsequential ‘ and politically debilitating. Some are MLAs, though probably not MPs. As in many other organisations, it isn’t always the cream that floats to the top. Together, Berry (who may have had an ulterior motive) and these others could conceivably have turned the DUP into a more inclusive party.

Some of the remarks by DUP representatives that Phelim parades seem to me pretty fair comment. Edwin Poots, when a minister, said that Gay rugger was a form of ‘apartheid’. It may be an ill-chosen analogy, particularly as the DUP was hardly at the cutting-edge of anti-Apartheid campaigning. But it’s hardly a hanging offence. Iris Robinson and Ian Paisley junior drivelling on about being disgusted, and in the latter case “repulsed” by Gay women and men (why did they have to ‘repulse’ him, what was he up to?) is trivial. They have never shown signs of being put off their food by the presence of Gay people. (Iris, it need hardly be said, is something of a ‘fag hag’).

SMALL BEER

The DUP is, even in terms of Northern Ireland, rather small beer. As noted above they got the majority of Unionist votes at the last elections (those for Westminster, as well as for Stormont (the site of the NI Assembly)) on an uncompromisingly anti-Sinn Fein ticket. They were ‘in bed’ with SF within days of getting elected. And Sinn Fein has a powerful weapon to use against them. They could withdraw from Stormont (SF, despite having five MPs, does not attend Westminster), and leave the DUP to the wrath of an electorate it has (by anybody’s standards) betrayed. (Dr. Paisley’s resignation becomes rather more ‘politic’ seen in this light.) On a more earth-bound note, Sinn Fein’s representatives give their salaries to the ‘movement’ and take a reasonable wage in return. DUP MLAs are not in the same position. They stand to lose a very nice package ( £20k plus all sorts of expenses) if they lose their present cushy numbers (two days a week attendance at Stormont – when it actually ‘sits’).

Phelim Mac Cafferty rather alarmingly writes “we must push” the government for laws which prohibit homophobes from holding office “”. Has New Labour not passed enough restrictive laws without our asking for more? How is homophobia to be measured? Who is going to do the measuring? The problems in drawing up such legislation are endless.

Like most people who have been at the wrong end of discrimination, I want to know when people (particularly organised, powerful people and groups) hate me because I am queer, because of my ‘perceived religion’, political views, or skin-tint.

New Labour insists, in the Government of Northern Ireland Act 1998, that everybody in Northern Ireland is either Protestant or Roman Catholic – to get to be ‘Other’ is impossible for those of us born in ‘the jurisdiction’. (I am probably a ‘Protestant’ due to my over-clever attempts to avoid answering the seven questions on the 2001 Census form soliciting one’s ‘birth-religion’ – a very curious concept apart from anything else).

Open, blatant bigotry, in the DUP manner should be mandatory – there are plenty of racists, homophobes and Islamophobes in Westminster using smooth inoffensive patter to disguise their hatred. We should not provide them with another layer of cant to hide behind.

 

Sean McGouran

 

PEARSE’S COMPLEX LEGACY

Patrick Henry Pearse(Introduction: Patrick Pearse was the President of the Irish Republic of Easter Week 1916. He joined the Irish Volunteers / glaigh na h ireann, (inspired by the founding, by the Ulster Unionist Council, of the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) in 1912), on the movement’s foundation in November 1913. He was a lawyer who did not practice law. He was deeply involved in the Gaelic League, editing its major publication. He was – as indicated below – a progressive educationalist. He founded his own schools. He was executed for his part in the Easter Rising. For nearly forty year’s Pearse’s reputation has been the object of genuine historical revisionism based on new evidence or re-interpretation of old evidence. He has also been the object of what amounts to a hate campaign. This has been based on his alleged (probable) homosexual orientation. On elements of his writing. And on the fact that he had not sought the permission of Dublin Castle to overthrow it). Pearse as educationalist Ireland’s postal authorities have issued stamps celebrating Patrick Pearse as educationalist. This turn of events at any time in the past thirty years would have led to yet another examination of Pearse’s alleged sexuality. The Irish Times article (25.09.08) on the matter was headlined Pearse as educational pioneer, written by Eliane Sisson. She wrote that the opening of Scoil anna (St. Enda’s) realised Pearse’s ” ” long-held dream of providing modern, child-centred, bi-lingual education for Irish boys”. The opening of Scoil te (St Ita’s – for girls) in 1911 is noted but not integrated into the article. Pearse in his writings on education, (the most vigorous of which The Murder Machine, Ms. Sisson notes in passing), refers to ‘children’ rather than ‘boys’.Elaine Sisson notes “[h]is clashes with the clergy ”” which “belie the perception that Pearse was slavishly devoted to the Catholic Church ””. Few who read him, or gave thought to the matter, got the impression that Pearse was even remotely orthodox in his Catholicism. (He was a sincere Catholic, but probably not terribly Roman). It is useful that this sort of information should appear in a contemporary Irish newspaper. Those who have spent any moons carefully fostering the image of Pearse as proto-Nazi p?”dophile will be furious at this act of betrayal by the Irish Times. Ms. Sisson notes the large number of well-known figures who sent their children to Pearse’s schools. She describes them as “eminent nationalist families”, noting that George Moore’s son Ulick was a pupil. Moore (senior) may have broken with nationalism later on, but even in 1908 he was hardly ‘advanced’, as it was called. James Larkin (member of the ECCI, Executive Committee of the Communist International, in the 1920s) and Stephen Gwynn do not fit neatly into the category ‘nationalist’ (certainly not as the term is perceived by most of modern Irish academia). Elaine Sisson lectures in D n Laoghaire’s Institute of Art, Design and Technology.Essentially Pearse annoyed the Castle and the Catholic authorities by running a religiously integrated (even secular) college ‘ Ms. Sisson describes it as “a Catholic lay-school”. The Gwynn family, while Home Rulers, were Ascendancy Anglican in background. She describes as “unlikely” the support he got from “international” figures, including Baden-Powell the founder of the Scout movement. His own sexuality has been ‘called into question’ recently. (Incidentally, the Scouts were founded in opposition to what B-P considered militaristic groups like the Boys Brigade and the Church Lads Brigade. The ‘image’ of B-P as some sort of Colonel Blimp is as distorted as is Pearse’s). Another ‘unlikely’ supporter was the poet Rabindranath Tagore, who emulated Pearse’s experiment, in Bengal.

Ireland and India Quite why such support is ‘unlikely’ it is difficult to understand. The whole of the British Empire had its eyes on Ireland. Alfred Webb* noted that in the 1890s there was a suggestion that Indian National Congress members be elected to Westminster from Irish seats. That’s a close relationship. Michael Davitt was at the centre of it. Apart from those trapped in the British Empire, there were those trapped in other empires. There was also the ‘diaspora’ – in The Empire, the USA, and Argentina. The enemies of The Empire (there were a lot of them), kept a wether-eye on Ireland. There were also people like German founder of Celtic studies, Kuno Meyer, who found the place inherently interesting. “Pearse is not now often remembered aSean innovator in educational methods ””. The last time The Murder Machinewas published – anywhere – was by Mercier (Cork) in 1986. Apparently ” ”those who knew him said he was at his most fluent and enlightened when speaking about education”. We are introduced to some of the education given to Pearse’s charges: “In the first year ” the boys heard lectures ” on French literature, phonetics, philosophy, medieval history, Egyptology, botany and archaeology.” Pearse “took them out of the classroom, using geography to teach history, nature to teach geometry, music to teach maths, art to teach Irish”. Science in Scoil anna According to Dr. Roy Johnston’s A Century of Endeavour, Pearse employed at least one science teacher, David Houston. This is rarely mentioned in dealing with the school. Science teachers were fairly rare in Irish schools until the 1960s. “Five teachers, including Pearse, were executed for their part in the 1916 Rising: William Pearse, Joseph Plunkett, Thomas McDonagh, and Con Colbert ””. This is not the “darker note” to which Ms. Sisson refers.That is ” ”Pearse’s promotion of valour and heroism ”” which is “uncomfortable” to modern audiences. The boys’ in pageantSeand plays dressed “aSeancient Irish warriors”, are “inevitably viewed through the lens of Pearse’s later militancy”.‘Pearse’s later militancy’ was in large part (if not entirely) a response to the Great War. That gigantic act of mass murder (on nearly every continent; a major naval battle was fought off the Falkland Islands in 1914, and when the USA entered the fray, every state in Latin America declared war on the USA’s enemies) is, as ever, ignored. Ireland is a little universe of its own. Not even the Other Island intrudes. Until the Irish decide to do something distasteful. Like assert their right to independence.

Wagnerian Pearse In parenthesis Ms. Sisson writes that the boys in these pageants look “like extras from a Wagnerian opera”. It is more than likely that Pearse wanted them to look like extras from Lohengrin or Parsifal. The Belfast Sinn Feiner Herbert Moore Pim produced a libretto (wee book / opera script) on Cuchuillain – nobody took up the notion. Wagner only ‘became viewed through the lens’ of Hitlerism after WWII. He even escaped the hysterical denunciation of all things German in 1914 (mainly due to the musicians, in particular Henry Wood, of the Promenade Concerts, refusing to toe the government line). Presumably ‘Wagnerian opera’ is mentioned because Ireland’s tin-eared intelligentsia takes its line on such matters from BBC Radio 4 UK (not even Radio 3, and certainly not RT Lyric FM). And not from the evidence of its own earSeand eyes, which might necessitate their making an actual individual decision.Elaine Sisson praises parts of Pearse’s “complex” legacy. For instance “the vibrancy, enthusiasm and child-centredness lives on in the Gealscoil movement”. But the “emphasis on heroic self-sacrifice” belongs in the Pearse Museum. Does it? Is the emphasis on heroic self-centredness of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ quite so obviously morally superior to that of Pearse, his brother, Colbert, Plunkett, MacDonagh and the rest of that ‘delirium of the brave’? Se n McGouran * Alfred Webb: The Autobiography of a Quaker NationalistEdited by Marie-Louise LeggeCork University Press,1999

Red Door Cafe & Gift Shop is now Open !!!

Coffee being pouredRed Door is located at the former Adelboden site , 38 Donaghadee Road Groomsport Co Down

Serving the best coffee and tasty food on the Co Down coast and as always great hospitality !

Your all very welcome ….

Colin Angus& Lynda Bryans

Tel 02891 468616


Gay humanist mag rises from the ashes of controversy

We’ll have a no-holds-barred policy, say editors

Gay & Lesbian Humanist, the magazine that suspended publication amid controversy in 2005, is back. And its editors have promised a no-holds-barred policy concerning political correctness.
G&LH‘s return has been warmly welcomed by Barry Duke, editor of Britain’s oldest freethought magazine, The Freethinker, who says it plays an important part in getting the message across.
The new online publication takes over from the print version, which had been publishing quarterly since 1981.
The magazine has, throughout its life, carried a lively mixture of in-depth feature articles, regular items, events newSeand general news on matters concerning humanists, lesbianSeand gays worldwide.
In a statement today, the magazine’s editors say: Many people will remember G&LH. Some may remember why it suspended publication following a protracted dispute about content.
After a period of change and restructuring within the PTT, the trustees decided to resume publication. In order to optimise the trust’s work and cost-effectiveness, and to reach a wider audience, it was decided to make G&LH an online publication.
On the magazine’s policy, the statement adds: Much is often said about the right-wing threat to our liberties, but far less attention is made of threats from the left wing and elsewhere. However, we will expose threats wherever we find them, without fear of or favour to any established dogma, and with chromatic indifference to the whole political spectrum.
If it stands for anything, G&LH stands for reason, free speech and open debate. There are no sacred cows or no-go areas. Full stop.
The editors’ statement says everyone has the right to free speech within the confines of the law. The only way to strengthen something is to question it, test it, they say.
Truth is not protected by never being challenged, but by always being challenged. Where there is no truth, there is no education. The educative process knows no bounds.
We hope that, by providing feature articles examining all aspects of humanism, sexuality, dogma, threats to free speech, we fill a gap not addressed by other publications.
Barry Duke, editor of the 127-year-old Freethinker, said today: As one who helped launch the Gay & Lesbian Humanist, then witnessed with enormous pride its development over the years, I am delighted that the magazine has resurfaced in electronic format.
I always believed that the magazine could play an important part in getting the message across that, not only was it good to be gay, it was even better to be a gay person free from the dreadfully debilitating and hugely harmful influences of religious belief.
I like to think that the magazine with its top-notch reportage and in-depth coverage of important and often controversial issues provided its readers with a vital and unique stepping-stone from the tyranny of religious dogma to the freedom of a guilt-free, rational lifestyle.
Welcome back!
And a former editor of G&LH, George Broadhead who is also secretary of the PTT had this to say: I was very sad that the previous print version of G&LH ceased publication. I am enormously pleased we will now be able to continue where we left off.
On arriving at the magazine’s website (http://www.gayandlesbianhumanist.org/) readers are greeted by a montage of covers from the print edition going back to the late nineties, when it began printing in colour. On clicking the Enter here button they are taken to a mixed content of serious articles, some more light-hearted material, a roundup of news from Britain and around the world, and an invitation to visit the magazine’s sister publication, the blog Pink Triangle (http://ptt-blog.blogspot.com/).
Note for editors:
Gay & Lesbian Humanist ceased publication amid a controversy over content that received widespread publicity, including articles in the Guardian, the Morning Star and several online outlets.
The Pink Triangle Trust is the only UK-based gay humanist charity and the only humanist organisation worldwide publishing an online magazine for lesbian and gay atheists, freethinkerSeand humanists.
The trust is named after the pink triangle that lesbianSeand gay men had to wear in the Nazi concentration camps. This registered charity (number 1015629) was set up in 1992 to advance the education of the public and particularly of lesbianSeand gay men, in the principleSeand practice of Humanism and to advance the education of the public, and particularly of Humanists, about all aspects of homosexuality. It may also assist individuals to obtain remedies under the law where they have suffered unlawful discrimination on account of their homosexuality or their Humanism.
Issued by:
The Pink Triangle Trust, 34 Spring Lane, Kenilworth, Warwickshire CV8 2HB
44 (0)1926 858450
http://www.pinktriangle.org.uk/
weblog: http://ptt-blog.blogspot.com/
Gay & Lesbian Humanist magazine: http://www.gayandlesbianhumanist.org
To read articles in previous issues of G&LH and find a list of contributors, go to http://www.pinktriangle.org.uk/glh/index.html.
For further information, contact Andy Armitage on 01994 419755 or by email at editor@pinktriangle.org.uk.

Schools play about homophobia attacked by rightwing press

By Tony Grew November 11, 2008 – 11:28

In an echo of the 1980s, broadsheet and tabloid newspapers have carried lurid stories this morning about a play aimed at secondary school kids that urges them to confront homophobia.

FIT, written and directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair, has already been performed in 75 schools nationwide, but an upcoming FIT was devised for schoolsperformance in Dagenham has caught the attention of Fleet Street.

Two unnamed parents are quoted in The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Star as being “uncomfortable” with their children seeing the play.

The papers were strong backers of Section 28, a 1988 amendment to the Local Government Act that barred local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality in schools.

The consequence of the new law was misery and isolation for a generation of lesbian and gay kids, with teachers unwilling to discuss homophobic bullying and some even mocking gay pupils.

It was repealed in 2003.

A recent study by gay equality organisation Stonewall found that nearly two thirds of LGB students reported instances of homophobic harassment.

That figure jumps to 75% of young gay people attending faith schools.

The survey of more than 1,100 young people found that only 23% of all UK schools explicitly condemn homophobic bullying.

92% of gay, lesbian and bisexual pupils have experienced verbal abuse, 41% physical bullying and 17% have been subject to death threats.

30% of pupils reported that adults have been responsible for incidents of homophobic bullying in their schools.

Nearly every interviewed student had heard phrases like, ‘You’re so gay’, and remarks like ‘poof’ and ‘dyke’ in UK schools.

FIT iSean attempt to tackle the issues in a form young people will relate to. Billed as a hip-hop musical, it has been well-received in schools across the country. Feedback from teacherSeand pupils has been encouraging, according to the producers. One teacher in Edinburgh commented: “It was absolutely outstanding! The studentSeand staff were mesmerised.”

A Drill Hall drama group spokesperson said:

“FIT has been developed to tackle the growing problem homophobic bullying in Britain’s schools.

“This touring play has been especially created for Key Stage 3 students – years seven to nine – and specifically complements various learning objectives from the National Curriculum.

“FIT is a bold play about attempting to fit in and trying to stand out in a culture where everything from not liking sport to wearing the wrong trainers is “gay”.’

A father whose 12-year-old son is at the school managed to tell three national newspapers: “Maybe I’m pretty old-fashioned sort of bloke but I don’t want my boy seeing this. I could be wrong but I don’t think its normal to think about being gay at that age.”

In January the Secretary of State for Children, SchoolSeand Families, Ed Balls, launched the first ever national guidance from the government to help schools tackle homophobic bullying.

FIT receives a public performance in Drill Hall 1 at 7.30pm on Saturday 15th November. Tickets cost 15 and 10 for concessions, which include Camden residents.

Gay School Musical to help homeless gay teens

Gay School Musical will be performed in aid of gay homeless teensA new musical comedy “in a league-table of its own” will be performed next month in aid of a charity that supports gay young people who are homeless.

Gay School Musical is the latest theatrical extravaganza from London Frontrunners, a gay and lesbian running group, after their well-received Cinderella and A Christmas Carol.

This year’s performance, on Sunday 9th November, is in support of the Albert Kennedy Trust, which supports gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans young homeless people.

“Slap on the Clearasil and get down to Strange Hill – before Ofsted does ” condensing a whole term into an hour, unruly pupliSeand unhinged staff battle it out for love and stardom in a sweetly silly show.”

There will be two performances, at 7.30 & 9.15pm, at the King’s Head Theatre, Upper Street, London N1.

Click here for more information.

The Albert Kennedy Trust was set up in 1989, after 16 year old Albert Kennedy fell to his death from the top of a car park in Manchester whilst trying to escape a car load of queerbashers.

Albert was a runaway from a children’s home in Salford and was depressed. His short tragic life had been filled with rejection and abuse from society.

Manchester’s gay community was moved into action by the Trust’s founder patron Cath Hall, a heterosexual foster carer who admitted she could not meet the full range of needs of gay & lesbian kids coming through her care.

As a result AKT was formed, and in 1990 became a Trust.

The Trust provides appropriate homes through supported lodgings, fostering and other specialist housing schemeSeand enables young people to manage independent living successfully.

Belfast Pride Presents: The New Years Eve Pride Ball, 2008

The New Years Eve Pride Ball, 2008

 

31st December 2008, Radisson SAS Hotel, Belfast, 7pm.

 

See in the New Year with Belfast Pride at a gala ball in the stylish surroundings of the Radisson SAS Hotel.

 

A champagne reception upon arrival will set the tone for a decedent evening centredaround a four course dinner.

 

The event will also feature the inaugural Belfast Pride AwardSeand a disco to herald 2009.

 

Tickets are limited, priced at 35 each and available now from tickets@belfastpride.com or from the Failtie Ireland offices, 53 High Street Belfast (Monday Friday 9am 5pm).

 

Dress code is smart-formal (ie no jeans!), masquerade is optional, with flamboyance strongly encouraged!

 

This event is a fundraiser for Belfast Pride 2009, and with New Year fast approaching we recommend you secure your tickets soon, as this is sure to be a popular event.

 

Yours,

 

The Belfast Pride Committee

Beyond the Palin

As America goes to the polls to elect the 44th President of the United States, a previously little known gun totting social conservative, with hard line views on abortion, gay rightSeand creationism has caused a media storm, breathing unpredictability into an otherwise electorally forgone conclusion.

Whilst the Palin factor has generated headlineSeand column inches across the States, and the world, across the Atlantic, this wee spot in Europe has been contemplating another, less famous, evangelical fundamentalist female politician, with equally uncompromising views of the society in which we live.

And so it was this summer, that Iris Robinson, the wife of the First Minister, embarked on an astonishing series of attacks directed at the provinces gay community.

She appeared on BBC Radio Ulster one June morning to belittle the forthcoming Belfast Pride parade, insisting, unsurprisingly, that neither she nor her husband would be in attendance as it was an abomination.

Less than a week later a young man was severely attacked in Ballyduff on the outskirts of Belfast in what the police described as a homophobic attack.

Two days after this attack Mrs Robinson was back on the same BBC show to insist that she had a psychiatrist who worked with her who had a track record in curing’ gay people from their lifestyle choices’.

The inference was clear – this young man was attacked because he was gay, so Iris’s solution was not to challenge the societal homophobia which manifests itself so violently, but challenge the victims of such brutality to change their ways, thus no longer making them a target.

Not content to simply dispense her, albeit questionable, Bible based moral guidance to the LGBT population of Ulster, Mrs Robinson offered a legal -social commentary, by proclaiming during a House of Commons Grand Committee debate that there can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality, than the abuse of innocent children.

Overnight she surpassed the folksy, you betcha, social conservatism of Palin and became something all together more disturbing a hate mongering ayatollah on a moral crusade.

Northern Ireland is, of course, not alien to such medieval bigotry. Last year a joint University of Ulster / University of Queensland study placed the province as the homophobic capital of the west. But the Robinson saga clearly indicated a shift within wider society from passive indifference to outright horror that political leaders in a community with a history such as ours could still hold such a propensity for hatred towards a minority.

An online petition calling for the Prime Minister to censure Mrs Robinson attracted 18,000 plus signatories. Similarly the Belfast Telegraph conducted its own poll, which, on a parochial level, showed some 70% of respondents in favour of her resigning.

These actions, whilst not materialising into some formal governmental reprimand, clearly helped harness broad public opinion and mobilise and unite the gay community over Pride week, culminating in a parade attracting over 7,000 participantSeand featuring representatives of every political party in Northern Ireland, save, of course, Mrs Robinson’s Democratic Unionists.

Northern Ireland’s last acceptable prejudice was finally being challenged across the socio-political spectrum.

Paradoxically, despite the best efforts of the DUP and their cohorts, the gay community in Northern Ireland is thriving, particularly outside the established scene in Belfast and Londonderry.

A new bar has recently opened in the border town of Strabane, whilst regular club nights have arrived in the towns of Newry and Bangor.

And our new gay rugby side, The Ulster Titans, despite the DUP minister for sport decrying their creation as sporting apartheid, walked away with the shield at their inaugural participation at the gay rugby World Cup. Success was hailed with a three part BBC NI documentary celebrating their achievements. The documentary wasn’t voyeuristic, but rather in the typical Ulster fashion of celebrating all achievements emanating from the province regardless of sporting code or sexuality.

Meanwhile governmental funding has provided a development officer for the sector, working to establish and encourage local social and support groups in Craigavon, Lisburn, North Down and the Causeway coast.

This funding, which has underpinned the significant advances the community has made over the last number of years, is due to expire in April. It was allocated by direct rule ministers, before devolution, and as it comes to an end few of us hold out for sensible funding solutions from a DUP led executive.

We wait with baited breath for the publication of our devolved administrations Sexual Orientation Strategy in the coming months, but in this austerian age the excuses for a fledgling executive who can’t even agree to hold a meeting, are all to ready to justify withholding further funds to the community sector.

Famously Tony Blair sympathised with the plight of the moderate nationalist party the SDLP during protracted peace process negotiations, when he noted that their negotiating gravitas was hampered by the fact the did not process a paramilitary wing.

So too the gay community, which has been something of a forerunner in cross community relations in a still divided Northern Ireland, has been underfunded and marginalised by the, perceived, more pressing issue of bridging the sectarian divide.

The new political dispensation does not allow for Protestant Catholic feuding, but political expediency dictates a common enemy is useful particularly for a party whose bread and butter is bible bashing dogma. Just as Palin can deflect questions over her experience and record by playing the God card, Mrs Robinson shored up support from the evangelical core of the Democratic Unionists for her husbands succession of Ian Paisley as leader of that party. The party was not secularising or losing its moral compass by power sharing with Sinn Fein.

Robinson, like Paisley, hates the gays.

Governor Pailn may represent the cliched view of small town America, but Mrs Robinson has exemplified the finest traditions of small minded Northern Ireland.

Given that there has been a 175% increase in homophobic motivated incidents in her own constituency over the past year is it not reasonable to presume that by saying the things she has said the local MP could be stoking tension, giving a degree of kudos to those whose attitudes which are similar to Mrs Robinson’s manifest themselves not over the airwaves, but through acts of violence?

Hate crime law is vague at present, and as such there remains the possibility that by claiming gay people are worse than paedophiles the MP for Strangford is inciting hatred, even if she herself does not throw the punch, petrol bomb or brick.

Aristophanes said that under every stone lies a politician. Under the boulder of homophobia in Northern Ireland still remainSean entire party of government.

Members of the European Parliament condemn the attack at the opening of the Sarajevo Queer Festival

Press release from the Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights of the European Parliament

25 September 2008

For immediate release

“Members of the European Parliament condemn the attack at the opening of the Sarajevo Queer Festival.”

Yesterday the opening of the Sarajevo Queer Festival was brutally attacked and 6 people had to be taken to hospital. The festival is a first of its kind organised in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but unfortunately it has caused negative tensions in the society. Many extremist groupSeand politicians have openly called for violence against homosexual and transgender people.

“We strongly condemn the attacks against the Sarajevo Queer Festival. It is a cowardly behaviour to challenge the views one disagrees with by violence”, said Michael Cashman, President of the Intergroup. “I also need to point out that Bosnia-Herzegovina wants to become a member of the European Union and the country should clearly show that it is ready for membership. AuthoritieSeand society at large must show that they can respect the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people not just in law, but also in practice. Respect for Human rights is at the heart of EU membership”

Sirpa Pietik inen, Vice-President of the Intergroup for the EPP-ED added, “ReligiouSeand political leaders should be aware that the violence of yesterday is a result of their homophobic speeches. They must understand that is not acceptable. Politicians should have the courage to stand up against any kind of violence and protect human rights of every citizen.”

ENDS

For further information on the Intergroup please visit our website:

http://www.lgbt-ep.eu

Representatives of European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights:

President: Michael Cashman MEP (UK/PSE)

Vice-President: Lissy Gr ner MEP (DE/PSE)

Vice-President: Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP (ALDE)

Vice-President: Ra l Romeva MEP (G/EFA)

Vice-President: Sirpa Pietik inen MEP (EPP-ED)

Watchful of your liberty

Having watched the government’s attempt to railroad away Habeas Corpus, it will comes as no surprise therefore to find out that since the early 1970’Seand the embattled British government’s attempts to contain and control the IRA and its various splinter factors, not forgetting the UDA and its various off-shoots, that we are under surveillance.

Yes, you may think that I have forgotten the Cold War, but this was restrained and though there were abuses notably the phone monitoring and breaking into of CND premiseSeand individuals hoes; in the main due to the technology of the day the government was constrained in its actions due to manning and resources.

It is now 2008, the spectre of Big Brother’ and 1984 has been passed by, and today theBook cover of 1984implementation of a nanny’ state, introduction of video surveillance (first brought into place with the covert photography of imprisoned suffragettes in 1913) with face recognition software enabled in 1998, with similar software for vehicles the year before, we are right to think we are being watched.

Viceo Surveillance in out streetsIndeed surveillance is not just limited to the streets with video cameras. Every time you withdraw money, purchase something with your debit/credit card the transaction is noted on computer and a history of your spending habits can be extrapolated.

Since late 2007 all UK telecom providers have to keep phone logs of all its users’ calls for at least a year, whether made by landline or mobile. Of course the terrorists whom the government try to frighten us with, have realised thiSeand now use Skype phones which use the web, and which currently no-one can record!

So in affect we have all been created equal’ in state criminals. The totalitarian state is not very far away. Indeed the government’s actions in the DNA database has turned over one million innocents into criminals included in which are children (1/2 million at the last count).

The government has shown both nationally and locally that it will abuse its power, e.g. the DNA example given above for central government, and locally we have Walsall Council using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000) ” to investigate alleged benefit fraud, anti-social behaviour and trading standard infringements bearing in mind that this Act was intended to be used in the interests of national security.

I am sure you remember the case of a family in Poole put under surveillance because they were suspected of living outside the catchment area of their child’s school.

Is there no curtailment of the UK government? It would seem very little! The European Court of Human Rights after deliberation has ordered the British Government to pay E7,500 in costSeand expenses to the UK human rights organisation Liberty’ for violating their rights to privacy by intercepting its telecommunications. This was brought under Article 8 of European Council of Human Rights.

Does this mean that we can assume that the British government will curtail its big brother’ attempts of surveillance and control? I do not believe so. In March 2007 the British government has launched an enquiry into surveillance conducted on citizens by the government. It is to investigate the growing number and scope of government databases holding increasing amounts of information on citizens.

So do I think that the commission will achieve anything? No I am again afraid that the history of Commissions in the UK is not great; they seem to take an inordinate amount of time to get to the point at which they started, cost a very great deal of money, and in the main cannot impose their recommendations on whoever they need to.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said (2007) Two years ago I warned that we were in anger of sleepwalking into a surveillance society; today I fear that we are in fact Waking up to a surveillance society, that is already ”

Looming on the horizon is the spectre of National ID cards. The government first introduced during the 2nd World Ware paper based ID cards, and they were removed in 1952. These cards were introduced to allow people to get their food ration, stop them from dodging conscription and make sure they weren’t German. With the technology of the time, these proved to be easily forged mainly for the benefit of criminalSeand those avoiding conscription. Do I think that the new format will make any difference no I don’t. Criminals can afford to invest in more money to break any encryption techniques deployed by government.

The criminals, and therefore terrorists who have money to burn and use criminals to achieve their aims, will find a way around the technology or adapting it to suit their needs.

I started this article about surveillance. I mentioned in passing the use of mobile phone technology and the capacity for it to be monitored. This is not just in relation to calls. However should you be a technophobe and not carry a phone, use a TV (satellite, cable or terrestrial) or anything else don’t think you can escape. As long as you shop, most items bought have an RFID tag (something smaller than a pin head) for stock taking’ purposesAn EPC RFID tag used by Wal-Mart. which can be monitored around the store to track your purchasing and other habits. Indeed this can be taken outside the store, to the high street or mall even to your home.

This is not an attempt to scare you but an attempt to make you more aware of the liberties you have lost and will loose unless we start challenging the government of the day eye looking through a keyholeabout its dutieSeand about our rights. it has a right and duty to govern not to imprison or spy without cause.

I am not the only person who is aware, the Anarchist Federation has published a small pamphlet ‘Defending Anonymity’ which can be downloaded as a as a pdf file DEFENDING ANONYMITY - 3rd edition