Only openness will take sexuality out of politics

One of the things we highlighted as most damaging in the allegation that Sinn Fein was trawling for sex secrets at Stormont before it closed was the alleged targeting of gay members of the Unionist opposition. Eoghan Harris argues that this highlights the long overdue need to have a public debate on sexuality in politics.

…an IRA operation aimed at gathering sexual intelligence on Sinn Fein’s political opponents in Northern Ireland. Naturally you can be certain the IRA’s dirty tricks department will be even more active down here on the eve of our general election. They might even set up a Centre for Public Inquiry as a cover.

This means that TDs and senators whose sexual practices are not within the current consensus could be blackmailed. Last week, I felt that participants on RTE’s arts programme The View lost a chance to protect such politicians. Reviewing Brokeback Mountain, Michael D Higgins, Marian Finucane and Brian Finnegan, editor of Gay Community News, made some pertinent points – especially Finnegan’s incisive insight that the film might help latent homosexuals (“gay” seems too light a word for such courageous people) to come out publicly. But they missed a beat.

Michael D Higgins passed up the chance to call on his colleagues in Dail Eireann to open up a proper debate on sexuality in political life. In the Dail there must be at least a dozen deputies whose sexual tastes, stretching from homosexuality to cross-dressing, make them vulnerable to the vultures who inhabit the IRA’s intelligence departments. Coming out is the best way to beat potential blackmailers – and win public support.

  • Henry94

    When a member of the Gardai leaked information Emmet Stag’s life there was widespread sympathy for him and he was duly re-elected.

    As was the openly gay Fine Gael councilor in Cork Peter Kelly who was the subject of, in the lead up to the local elections, a lurid tabloid story from the Daily Star, a paper in the Independent Group!

    So the Independent Group are warning about others doing in theory what they themselves have already done in reality!

  • if the are of bad character as shown by their sexual exploits, then they shouldnt be representing us.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    I hope Eoghan is a bit more correct with his facts about spying than he was about being confronted by a SF councillor. Eoghan stated that he was harangued by this councillor and that he didn’t really mind as he knew the councillors family well.
    Trouble was he was not a SF councillor, only the brother of one. But hey, Eoghan was in Sindo anti Shinner mode so why let the facts get in the way of a set piece rant. Time to get reacquainted with the family methinks.

  • GavBelfast

    Still intimidated though wasn’t he?

  • EWI

    Coming out is the best way to beat potential blackmailers – and win public support.

    I’ve often thought that Harris exists in some warped alternative reality. Call it the “Stickyverse”.

    Known cross-dressers elected as TD’s?

  • Shore Road Resident

    Errr, Harris’s piece on that incident was by far the mildest of all the commentary subsequently written about it – but I see that “Pat McLarnon” has been instructed not to let the matter drop until it can be ham-fistedly discredited from a safe distance in time. Truly the Shinners never forget. Which is a pity, because I can bet you Harris has.

  • The Dubliner

    Ah yes, unsubstantiated allegations proffered by ‘unnamed sources’ to journalists who have a rabidly anti-republican agenda certainly makes a quick conversion to ‘proven fact’ status among the demented. The sane, on the other hand, just shake their heads and wryly smile.

  • Pat,

    Two quick points:

    – are you suggesting that every individual journalist is responsible for everything else published by the newspaper group they write for? If so, life is going to get very very complicated round here, since I’ve written for a fairly long list of different newspaper groups.

    – I can’t say I recall it precisely, but I think the original reference to the lone protester outside his house was made in the most affectionate terms. Didn’t he have a long chat with him about Irish history? And I’m fairly sure it was followed the next week with a clarification. It’s possible that Harris may have had the advantage of reading some of the correctives brought to light here on Slugger at the time.

    Surely acknowledgement of one’s mistakes is an admirable quality in anyone, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with their political outlook? Would that it were a more common practice amongst commentators (not to mention our commenters).

  • The Dubliner

    I think Pat was alluding to the fact that the Independent Newspaper Group has a partisan political agenda that is disseminated to an unwary public by propagandists posing as legitimate journalists.

    As for Harris, he was wise to retract his “error” after learning that others were wise to it. He’d certainly look ‘imprudent’ if he “knew the family well” but not well enough, apparently, to tell one brother from the other.

  • Animus

    Jamal – how is being gay or a cross-dresser of bad character? That’s like saying blue-eyed people are a bit shady.

    I’m not certain that coming out would be such a positive thing for some politicians. There’s a reason that people keep such things secret: society is still fairly homophobic. Also, sexuality shouldn’t be the focus on how a politician performs his/her duties. So who wants to be first in opening a potential Pandora’s box? I agree that a debate might be useful, but it’s a sensitive subject.

  • páid

    I think, on balance, I would prefer a homosexual to represent me in politics. Also a woman. Generally speaking; there are exceptions of course, they would make a welcome change from the megalomaniac heterosexual males that form the bulk of the politican class. In order to advance in politics in the South you have to have
    a)a photographic memory for faces
    b)a “personal relationship” with thousands of your constituents
    c)to be able to put up with no end of time-wasters
    d)an unhealthy appetite for machiavellian skullduggery.

    This, apparently, qualifies you to take strategic decisions in the national interest.

  • missfitz

    And what are you implying Paid, that lesbians have better memories?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    I wouldn’t hold every journalist working for a particular newspaper repsonsinble for everything written in that newspaper. The Independent stable is different in that it does not try to even pretend to adopt a neutral stance in it’s northern reporting and commentating. It employs a very partisan and narrow view. Harris is one of a number of columnists(sic) employed in that capacity.

    On the previous story Harris did state that he knew the family, so it is not too much to expect that he actually knew the person he was talking to. But for the purpose of the column Harris needed the person to be a SF councillor, thus Harris could moan about intolerance and harrassment.

    The subsequent apology was meaningless given the manufactured nature of the original story.