Speaking out against Ignorance and bigotry

Ireland’s President, Mary McAleese, has spoken out against homophobia during a visit to St Columb’s College in Derry writes Garbhan Downey in the Sunday Times McAleese backs gay campaign

St Columb’s is celebrating it’s 125th Anniversary and the president used her speech to address the issues of sectarianism, racism and homophobia.

“Those citizens of tomorrow . . . what do they say when their friends make sexist, racist, sectarian or homophobic jibes — do they stay silent and let the poison of contempt go on its cruel way, or do they have the guts to stop it in its tracks and say such words are unacceptable and dangerous?

“Do they have the backbone and the conviction to lead their friends in the right direction even if it seems the loneliest place in the world?”

Reported attacks on gay people in Derry have trebled during the past year and prominent gay activist Sean Morrin, project director for the Rainbow Project, welcomed the President’s intervention. Morrin doesn’t believe that Derry is any worse than other parts, but feels the gay community has more confidence in reporting attacks and in reporting them as specifically anti-gay to the Police, a claim supported by the PSNI who last year drew up an anti-hompohobic protocol for the city.

  • Dr Snuggles

    Nice one, Mary. As the ‘Homophobia still seen as a respectable prejudice’ comments thread is still going strong – I respectfully suggest we don’t re-run that particular debate here, or at least confine comments to the education issue.

    Mary McAleese also spoke out against sexism, racism and sectarinism, let’s not forget. However, the fact of the matter is that a teacher is less likely to want to tackle homophobia than racism, sexism or sectarianism.

    I was pretty sporty at school, but I remember more than one PE teacher calling some other pupils “a big queen” or a “fairy” if they couldn’t manage to catch a ball. That wasn’t that long ago, and those same teachers would not have tolerated for one second any racial bullying of the few pupils of Chinese background that attended the school.

    Attacks on the masculinity or femininity of kids by each other (and even teachers) seems to be as old as the hills, and as long as “respectable” figures in society – whether they are teachers, churchmen, members of the Policing Board, or worst of all, parents – denounce homosexuality as somehow wrong, the kids on the receiving end of taunts and bullying won’t feel like they even have right on their side in fighting back.

  • spirit-level

    I’ve no time for homophobia; but I do think gay IRA men should wear pink balaclavas when they’re out theiving, as a matter of Pride 🙂

  • Ambrose Uprichard

    Dr Snuggles – I wanted to blog this because it addresses several issues in addition to my original blog – Police involvement with drafting of new protocol, the question of whether Derry has a particular problem or whether this is down to increased identification of violence previously not specified as homophobic and the education issue.

    The other thread has tended to focus on the issue of homosexuality itself in terms of morality and parenting. I’d hope this thread can look at our feelings about how we should bring up our youngsters to treat others with respect and to understand that difference does not mean threat.
    Can schools actively correct problems in broader society and should we expect teachers to carry the burden of social engineering? Will this encourage the rest of us to avoid difficult issues as has to some extent been seen with sex education and general behaviour where many parents seem to thing that raising their children as good citizens is now the state’s responsibility?

    The Article also addressed a question asked – is Derry worse than the rest of Northern Ireland. It leads onto the question – should the police across the rest of Northern Ireland learn from the protocols introduced in Derry? Are they reluctant to address the issue because identifying the scale of the problem will surely lead to increased pressure on police and politicians to address it ? Is this reluctance, if present, merely operational in terms of resources or is there a problem within the police and other agencies in respect of anti-gay prejudice, similar to the race issues within policing and the justice system that have led to problems ?

  • garret

    Doubt if its worse in Derry than other towns and cities in the north.

  • garret

    In fact I am sure it is far far worse in the unionist towns where there is more bible-evengelicalism than in Derry. As I was ridiculed for saying on the other thread.

  • Davros

    Out if interest – how would Derry compare to Belfast and Newry in terms of it’s Catholicism ? Is it especially devout and old-fashioned ?

  • spirit-level

    “bible-evengelicalism” linked with more attacks on gays, if true how sad, I wouldn’t ridicule you for that; being saved is supposed to be about love, not going out “gay-bashing fer jesus”. Here in Brighton, gay capital of europe, attacks are very rare, a few times a year if that; we are 600,000 population.. that must mean something. Tolerance?

  • spirit-level

    Davs are you slipping in a muck-spreader here when you hint that it might be , guess wot, the old Catholics again “especially devout and old-fashioned” who may be responsible for the attacks on gays , and not garret’s point about unionist town evangelists: because I think you’re on a seriously sticky wicket if you try that ploy, of course diversionary tactics applauded 🙂

  • Davros

    spirit-level – actually it’s a serious question and one about which I’d be interested to hear from DerryTerry and others like Paddy or Chris. 20 years ago I courted a Newry lass who said that in parts of Newry it was almost as if Vatican II had yet to arrive 😉 She was a mass goer in Belfast but it really was special occasions only at home.

    Garret is right – certainly in respect of prods, “good old-fashoned religion” is more homophobic than liberal protestantism – as seen by ordination of Gay Bishops… and from what I hear much the same applies in Roman Catholicism. Look what happened to Pat Buckley.
    It also raises issues in respect of schooling in that the churches grip in schools has lessened.

  • spirit-level

    I knew a gay lad from Dublin, ( North side poor )who left Ireland because he wasn’t accepted. But in my chats with him, I discovered that the catholic attitude towards homosexuality is “arrah god love you”.
    I think we all know where the homophobia is coming from; it is the unionist community, and its useless for anyone to try to mask or hide that shame. As a point of fact, Hatred of Migrants , Irish, Blacks , Catholics etc is sadly the thinking amongst ignorant, and not so ignorant unionists: see this weeks portadown news on the DUP its priceless, and I rest my case mate 😉

  • Dr Snuggles

    It’s really sad that this thread has already slipped into “the prod homophobes are worse than the fenian homophobes.”

    The fact is that christianity in general can be homophobic. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that homosexual intercourse is an act of “grave depravity.” And the new Pope said homosexuals have a “tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.”

    Garret, who is busy advocating genetically engineering homosexuals out of society on the other thread on this subject, was right to be ridiculed for this.

  • Ambrose Uprichard

    Can we address comments raised on other threads on those threads please? Otherwise this thread will struggle.

  • Dr Snuggles

    “Can we address comments raised on other threads on those threads please? Otherwise this thread will struggle.”

    It’s entirely relevant and valid to point out the hyposcrisy of a contributor on this thread, who is saying that protestants are the worst homophobes, while that same person is advocating genetically engineering gays out of society altogether on another thread.

    Readers of this thread have a right to know where some of the contributors are coming from.

  • garret

    I am happy not to mention other threads so as to help the debate on this thread. The comments made by Dr Snuggles here about me I strongly disagree with, for instance the charge of hypocricy and the charge that I want to get rid of homosexuals. I would refer readers to the other thread to see my replies to him which are based on fairly simple priors.

  • Davros

    Are you saying ‘spirit-level’ is ‘garret’ Dr S ?

  • spirit-level

    ok I’ll put my hand up:
    To get this thread back onto reason and argument:
    Is there any evidence that “the prod homophobes are worse than the fenian homophobes.”
    Dr.Snuggles ?

  • spirit-level

    Garrett said this:
    “In fact I am sure it is far far worse in the unionist towns where there is more bible-evengelicalism than in Derry. As I was ridiculed for saying on the other thread.” at 11:33am

  • Brendan

    I went to an all boys catholic school in Belfast where homophobia was rife among a number of the teachers. One lesson always stayed in my mind; the subject of homosexuality arose and one of my classmates declared that “Homosexuality is the disease and AIDS is God’s cure”. The teacher, instead of challenging him on this, agreed. It’s not as though he were restrained by section 28 from correcting this assertion because section 28 didn’t apply to NI when it was in force. He allowed young men to go out into the world with the belief that homosexuals were a disease ridden section of society on whom God had wrought a plague. And we wonder why our society is so homophobic?

  • Davros

    How recent was this Brendan ?

  • spirit-level

    I do not doubt the authenticity of your story, but those beliefs do not in themselves make for going out on a friday-night “gay-bashing”. Many people may privately believe what you’ve written but would never dream of hurting another person either verbally or physically, and isn’t the point that we are addressing: ” physical attacks” as unrestraioned ignorance and bigotry.

  • Dr Snuggles

    “Are you saying ‘spirit-level’ is ‘garret’ Dr S ?”

    Definitely not, Dav. There’s only one garret. Only one person, I think, on Slugger who could answer this question:

    “Maybe you’ll tell us now if the law should be changed to allow mixed-race parents to choose the shade of colour of their babies.”

    With: “I don’t have a strong view on this yet.”

  • Brendan

    Davros – 1997/8 I was in Upper Sixth anyway.

    Spirit – Level – I was of the impression that this thread related to tackling homophobia and other prejudices in education????

  • Davros

    Crikey Brendan – that’s disappointingly recent.

  • spirit-level

    Sorry you’re right. I’d hope education would solve the problem. Most of the vicars in Brighton are gay. I’ve worked for them. Homophobia is not an issue here. The evangelical churches pray against homosexuality, that’s about it. What is this tension in Northen Ireland all about on this issue?

  • garret

    Good grief Brendan – that is unbelievable. I believe you but but agree with Davros that is disappointingly recent. I was surprised they would say something like that post AIDS. It sounds more like a pre 1960s comment.

  • Brendan

    I could give further examples, one boy was quite unpopular and another (who, incidentally is in jail for murder) took it upon himself to beat the living daylights out of him. The justification was that he had been looking at him in the shower (lies of course, but who was going to run the risk of a similar beating) and nothing was done about it.

    First day of first year, September 1991 I’ll never forget it. The vice-principle addressing the assembly of 11 and 12 year old boys and telling them that if another boy ever touched your penis of scrotum of backsaide etc you had his permission to hammer him into the ground.

    That’s the sort of attitude that is being instilled into pupils back then in the not too distant past. I can’t comment on what it’s like now.

    Of course there was a rumour in later years that his diatribe had its origins in internalised homophobia…

  • Brendan

    Eek! Spelling appalling! Should of course read “Penis or scrotum or backside”

  • garret

    The situation you describe Brendan is very homophobic. It does suggest that homophobia is every bit as bad in catholic schools. It should, in fact, be a scandal. Head teachers should not say that stuff.

  • Dr Snuggles

    Garret, please explain how your stance on this thread ties in with these comments you made only today elsewhere:

    “If in techological terms it becomes possible for people to choose the orientation of their children or their own orientation then that option should be made available to the public. i.e. the law should permit it.”


    “When parents or people themselves can choose their attributes they will not choose to have homosexuals”.

    Please also explain how your “technology” is to be achieved.

  • garret

    Dr Snuggles – I am happy to discuss all these issues but let us keep them to the other threadas Ambrose requests.

  • BobT

    Speaking of prejudice, Reading the reports of our man, Kevin Mcbride, in the reports of his victory, are crap. They give him no credit at all, even to the point of spouting their opinion of him being a nothing fighter. All the articles are full of Tyson this and Tyson that!! Tyson lost… They don’t like Irish Catholic over here… And MM should have a go at that. Not jumping on the sinners bandwagon.


  • Dr Snuggles

    Garret, the thread is entitled ‘Speaking out against ignorance and bigotry’. That is what I am committed to do. Why not answer my question? How is your “technology” to be achieved?

    You also said this:

    “If someone would prefer to be straight then they should be allowed treatment.”

    What sort of treatment is that, garret?

    Contributors to this thread are entitled to know what others’ views really are.

  • Henry94

    It’s a pity to see sectarian narrow-mindedness on this issue.

    I think the hate filled lyrics of rap music are far more likely to be an influence on the attackers than anything in the gospels or the teachings of any Christian denomination.

    But if a discussion on tolerance is seen as another opportunity for snide attacks on the “other side” then it can only serve to show how much trouble we are really in.

  • Dr Snuggles

    To get back to the schools issue, it is interesting to note that Section 28 never applied to Northern Ireland. Moreover, Section 28 never actually applied to schools at all. It applied to local authorities in England and Wales, which had no power over the school curriculum. See link.

    My point here is that we don’t and never needed section 28 in order to have a culture of homophobia in our schools. All we need are the pernicious attitudes outlined by so many on this and other threads.

    Any suggestion that Catholics/Protestants are worse is the reddest of herrings, as is the suggestion that Derry is worse than Belfast.

  • Davros

    By coincidence – serendipity – on the religious aspect – just reading a review by Peter stanford in the Sunday Times, Basil Hume by Anthony Howard.

    Howard is an odd choice by Hume’s executors as the official biographer. Although an accomplished chronicler of public lives (Rab Butler and Richard Crossman) he is, as he says, a “wistful agnostic”. Yet the key to Hume’s life was his faith and in particular his spirituality, which was neither wistful nor agnostic. Howard’s solution to this seems to be to hope that Hume’s spiritual core will somehow miraculously emerge in the rush of events he details.

    And up to a point it does. He reveals it, for instance, by examining the areas where Hume departed from Vatican teaching — most notably on his refusal to condemn gay Catholics. Yet nowhere does Howard quote a single sentence from Hume’s extensive (and popular) spiritual writings, remarking only in a footnote that they are not very good, a sweeping judgment, you might think, for a wistful agnostic.

    My emphasis in bold.

  • garret

    “I think the hate filled lyrics of rap music are far more likely to be an influence on the attackers than anything in the gospels or the teachings of any Christian denomination.”

    Possibly, although the two probably are heard by somewhat different audiences.

  • mick hall

    Anyone who believes education alone can change peoples attitude to bigotry is being somewhat over-optimistic, for example the people who ran the British Empire at the upper echelons, had the finest liberal education money could buy, having attended school at Eton, Harrow, etc. Yet they often treated the Black and Asian populations under their charge in the most racist and bigoted manner. Golf clubs were mentioned on another thread, most members of these clubs will have had some form of higher education, yet the clubs more often than not discriminate against women. When people put the onus solely on education they are often showing their own prejudice, for what they like to believe is ‘nice’ people like them are not racist, it is only us working class oiks who rant on about blacks etc.

    I find it interesting no one has mentioned the following quote from Mary McAleese, “Those citizens of tomorrow . . . what do they say when their friends make sexist, racist, sectarian or homophobic jibes — do they stay silent and let the poison of contempt go on its cruel way, or do they have the guts to stop it in its tracks and say such words are unacceptable and dangerous?”

    Now we have all been there, shuffled our feet and looked at the floor after someone has told a racist joke, or told a ridiculously untrue story about asylum seekers or gays, whilst we decide if we are going to spoil the party by intervening along the lines of “that’s not only not funny, its not on.” It is not an easy thing to do, perhaps it was your boss who made the racist comments or a family member who you love. but do it we must, for if we as adults dont intervene at such times, how can we expect children to?

    Some of us are parents, if our child had come home and told us the disturbing story Brendan has posted, would we have gone straight up the school to demand it is not repeated. Lets hope so. [davros like you im shocked at how recent this occurred] What im trying to get at is the only way racism, homophobia, etc will be combated successfully is if they are made socially unacceptable, not only in good company but in all company. This is not political correctness, as I said before it is common decency. In the years gone by when anti catholic bigotry was even more rife amongst the governing class, few Protestant’s publicly spoke up against it, despite the fact im sure that many unionists felt it was wrong. The reason being it was the social norm and people did not wish to step out side of it and the comfort blanket it gave them.

    There really is a silent majority who find bigotry appalling yet say nothing, that is why as Mary said those of us who are willing to must challenge it when ever and where ever we find it. Sure there may be times when we fail to step up to the bar and intervene, when this has happens to me, I felt desperately disappointed with myself and told myself never again will I be such a coward. Bigotry will only go away when bigots either change or are forced back under their stone. In the latter case they will remain bigots, but hopefully they will not infect anyone else.

  • spirit-level

    That’s an excellent piece mick hall, worthy of any broadsheet columnist opinion.

  • Brendan

    Re: Section 28

    Section 28 was a particularly potent example of homophobia at work. As Dr Snuggles says, it did not apply to schools; however because there was never a prosecution brought under the section and therefore no judicial intepretation of its application, schools were effectively neutered when it came to tackling school yard bullying on the grounds that the victime was allegedly homosexual because teachers were afraid that, to say there was nothing wrong with homosexuality would be construed as “promoting” it within the meaning of the section.

    The section was initially introduced as a private members’ Bill by Lord Halsbury back in 1986 and was essentially a response to the hysteria whipped up by the right wing tabloid press over the activities of the Inner London Education Authority. What surprised me was the response of the Lord Denning, former Master of the Rolls and scourge of injustice. I can’t get online access to Hansard dating back that far but he screeched about how formerly the Lord smited Sodom and Gomorrah and how the Lords were going to smite the Sodomites. However the government refused to lend the Bill its support and it faltered.

    When the Conservatives were reelected in 1987 section 28 was introduced by Dame Shirley Porter as an amendment to the Bill. The debate in the House of Commons was fascinating with Chris Smith the former Culture Minister pointing out that under the legislation it might be unlawful to study James Baldwin or EM Forster’s Maurice because to do so might be construed as “promoting” homosexuality.

    It is frightening how such an odious little clause in an Act that pertains primarily to the tendering out of local government services could have had such an impact upon people’s lives and left alot of young people in the situation were they had no one to turn to for advice about how they were feeling.

  • Minesapint

    Without getting into the debate that took place on the other thread I want to comment on all issues raised, both in the original article and Ambrose’s post(s).

    The president made her remarks about “sexist, racist, sectarian and homophobic jibes”. Why is the post focusing (albeit not entirely) on the homophobic?

    Protestants have regularly been attacked when they venture into Londonderry (hereinafter referred to as Derry) city centre at night for an evening out. Garret, if attacks are on the city (nationalist) side of Derry are you suggesting the bible evangelists are crossing the river to do more than worship in the Protestant churches there?

    IMO there is a macho drink-as-much-as-you-can / drug culture among our young people of all creeds(and the not so young) that brings out the worst in both sexes. Men are (generally) more physically aggressive. If you dare, go to any provincial town late on weekend nights (Thursdays in the Holy land!!) when the pubs etc. get out, stay completely sober and you’ll see the evidence. Ask staff at our A&E units if you need more evidence. This drinking epidemic needs to be addressed in education in common with respect for other religions (sectarianism), cultures (racism), sexes (sexism) and lifestyles (homophobia).

    Parents, or the lone parent, need(s) to take responsibility for their child’s actions. I don’t mean they are totally responsible for, but take responsibility for educating, their child. Parenting skills are very lacking today, and are getting worse as each generation of younger and younger parents fails to ‘take-on’ their kids. (These skills used to be called discipline). Parenting may be a skill we need to teach our young people now – how about having their parents in the class as well?

    If the police publicise a protocol in one area how can they not do so in another? It used to be said that police failed to address incidents of domestic violence and rape properly – is the situation any better now?

    All types of attacks are, IMO, taking place equally across N Ireland. No doubt it’s part of the legacy of our violent past.

  • Eddie

    Davros “look what happened to Pat Buckley”? What happened to Pat Buckley?? That eeejit is a liar, an imposter, a fancy-dress freak.

    Buckley’s latest book is a nauseating mawkish “tribute” to his own gigantic Ego and Vainglory. Gay friends of mine regard him as an absolute joke!!

    He is lying about being “abused” by “Aidan” – some friends of mine who are genuine survivors of abuse have said that he is an apologist for paedophiles masquerading as an an “abuse victim” – read Chapter 2 of his wired up book.

    HE WAXES LYRICAL about this “Aidan” as if he loves him and it sounds more like a sexual fantasy than an account of sexual abuse. My friends who were abused are sickened – their stories are horrific – and, unlike Mr Buckley, they remember their abusers’ names.

    Mr Buckley is a joke, a buffoon aping a “bishop”. Look at him in the Daily Mirror last week (Wed June 8th) attacking those two visitors from Scotland Mr and Mrs Hamilton in the Europa Hotel – the picture taken by the Mrs Hamilton shows Mr Buckley to be a deranged maniac – drunk not only with alcohol but his also his own 100% proof self-importance.

    Buckley is MAAAAD!! It’s time the media wised up to him and stopped indulging his utter buffoonery and make believe. The Catholic Church should be asked why this clown is allowed to give a two fingered salute to all the Catholic Church stands for – going around in fancy dress pretending to be a “bishop” – when intellectual giants in the theological world are “silenced” for thinking “outside the box” – for much less than that idiot Buckley!!

    Mr Buckley is devious, obnoxious, malevolent, out of his tree and completely, seriously twisted. He should be laicised by the Catholic Church – why haven’t they done so? Ask the bishop of Down and Connor?? Are they afraid of Mr Buckley??? And, if so, why?? He’s squatting on Church property in Larne with total impunity!!

    The man comes over in his pathetic book as a “chicken-hawk” – he describes having a sexual affair with an 18 yr old when he was 32. He had no scruples about sleeping with the boyfriends and husbands of girls and women – that’s if you could believe him – he’s a total fantasist and ugly as sin. I find it hard to believe that anyone would find him as “desirable” as he paints himself – male or female.

  • Newbie

    I’m fairly new to this site and enjoy reading the comments made, but was wondering what people mean by the ‘other thread'(s) …? is there another site(s) that I should be keeping an eye on in order to fully understand what the arguments are…?

  • Occasional Commentator

    There are referring to this recent thread here on Slugger.