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.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty