Some time ago, I suggested to someone in the DUP that the Paul Berry incident was a wake up call regarding the party’s relationship with Northern Ireland’s gay community. There is a fair amount of animosity out there for that party almost to the exclusion of all others. In a polity where every vote should count in the narrowing gap between unionist and nationalist voter pools*, it makes sense not to give the wider population good reason not to vote for you, even if the pink vote is a lost cause for the foreseeable future. If Ian Paisley Junior thought his remarks would shore up his party’s fundamentalist base, he may be regretting it now. Barry White captures his political dilemma:
* as opposed to presumed populations.
…if you’re brought up to believe that homosexuality, bisexuality or gender-changing are against Bible teaching then you’re going to have trouble with the law. Either you compromise your religious beliefs and go with the flow, or say you can’t and resign from office.
What you can’t do is to express your personal opinion in an interview and then defend it when in office, knowing it is in conflict with your duties as a defender of homosexuals’ human rights. You’ve opened up a credibility gap that will occur again and again.
One of the kingpins of the DUP’s success has been its capacity to distinguish between private conscience and public duty. Despite references to locking park swings on Sundays, it is a long time since any DUP council proposed such any such theologically based policy. It would serve the party well, to find a way of moving on. And a way to mend some badly broken fences.
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