History Recalled – the Letter that OUT did not print about Peter Mandelson coming to Ulster

(Out-take from upstart November 2000)

 

HISTORY RECALLED  – The Letter That OUT did NOT print

 

OUT Letters

Prince Street Station

PO Box 630

New York NY 1001

 

Dear Editor,

 

‘MANDY’ MANDELSON & NORTHERN IRELAND

 

In your January 2000 edition (issue 74) you carried an item about Peter Mandelson — the former Cabinet Minister, and Tony Blair favourite — being given the job of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.  It was strongly implied that we quaintly reactionary Ulster-folk would be horrified at having a ‘Sodomite’ sent amongst us, a notion gleaned from the self-consciously fashionable (and stupid) Gay publications produced in London.  A city which is 55 minutes away from Belfast by plane, but several light years psychologically – think Manhattan and Juneau.

The response to Mandelson in Northern Ireland has been pretty muted, apart from the odd mildly satirical article about his spending the Christmas holiday with his Brazilian ‘friend’, with a local television personality who is also famously (and rather futilely) closeted.  Gayness is simply not pass-remarkable in this part of the world anymore, partly due to the work of this organisation over nearly thirty years.

Other groups have of course played their part: the major one being Cara-Friend the befriending and welfare wing of the over-all Gay movement, which has helped tens of thousands of lesbians, gay men, bisexual, transsexual, transgender and transvestite people to come to terms with themselves, over the past quarter of a century. The Pride committees have also done a great deal to make the community come forward.  2000 will be Belfast’s Tenth LGBT Pride and all the stops will be pulled out to make it a memorable festival.

That might be difficult, because in 1999, Pride enjoyed talks from Bishop Pat Buckley on the ‘ethical’ aspect of being Gay, while Jeff Dudgeon (about whose struggle against the UK government at the European Court of Human Rights, BBC Radio 4 UK broadcast a dramatisation in November 1999) gave a workshop on Roger Casement’s wide and deep connections with Belfast.  There was a Civic Reception in City Hall addressed by the Deputy Mayor Ms Marie Moore, and a half-hour programme shown on prime time television.  There were many other events and workshops, a poetry -reading and an art exhibition among other things.

NIGRA since 1993 has organised solidarity actions with ILGO (the Irish Lesbian & Gay Organisation of New York) in its struggle against the bigotry of the AOHA (Ancient Order of Hibernians in America).

Yours faithfully,

Seán McGOURAN

Secretary,

NI Gay Rights Association

[The above letter was sent in January 2000, by ‘snail-mail’, we think.  The date ‘November 2000’ had to do with the erratic production of upstart, a private concern that depended on whether or not the people producing it were employed and in funds.]

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