The world had a sobering look at the unvarnished bigotry of the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland this week, after one prominent member expressed his contempt for the Irish language whilst another sought to exempt party supporters from following from Northern Ireland’s equality laws.
In language calculated to offend, DUP member Gregory Campbell told a party conference that he would treat a proposed Irish Language Act “as no more than toilet paper,” garnering hearty applause from the attendees.
Meanwhile fellow DUP member Paul Givan pledged to introduce a new private member’s bill to allow the public to legally discriminate against gay people in Northern Ireland based on their “conscience.”
It remains to be seen why people of good conscience would want to discriminate against the Irish language or gays, of course.
But in explaining their positions Campbell and Givan made free with the kind of hostile rhetoric that would result in their immediate firing in other states, but in Northern Ireland has actually elevated the DUP to its current status as the voice of unionism.
Because of the DUP’s intransigence, Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that has failed to enact full equality measures – rather than enacting same sex marriage they have effectively banned it.
Givan’s anti-equality pledge was made in the light of Ashers Baking Company’s controversial refusal to bake a Sesame Street themed cake that endorsed same sex marriage.
“Nobody should be compelled or coerced into supporting, sanctioning or promoting views or opinions which conflict with their strongly held religious convictions,” said Given, who apparently felt that simply decorating a cake was tantamount to the complete surrender of his so-called Christian values.
And in an unprecedented move, the DUP party leader Peter Robinson has called for party members to contribute to the bakery’s legal costs, abandoning all attempts at impartiality.
Apparently no one has explained to Campbell or Givan or the DUP that no one is denying them their right to be British or Christian or heterosexual or unionists. But for them “freedom of conscience” apparently means they wish to retain the right to legally discriminate against others.
Party leader Peter Robinson’s wife Irish made international headlines for her sanctimonious attacks on Northern Ireland’s gays, whom she said were more vile than child abusers. Later it emerged she had been conducting an affair with a teenage boy she had known since his childhood.