If politicians in the south are feeling strong enough to ‘come out’, why not the north?

Whatever you think of Dominic Hannigan’s politics, the Labour TD took several goes at trying to represent the good people of Meath East… John Lyons came through at the first time of asking in the more working class constituency of Dublin North–West. They did so with the voters in full knowledge that they were gay. Cork South Central Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer has decided to follow suite and himself come out.

I very much doubt they are the only gay TDs elected to the Oireachtas, and it’s notable that most of them represent large urban or semi urban areas. But there is no doubt, as Fionnuala O’Connor noted in the Irish News yesterday, that a much larger degree of openness around the subject can do nothing but help in a society where the private life of almost every family has changed whilst public life has lagged:

…in every family, or almost every family, someone has gathered all their courage and told parents, siblings, one sister or a favoured aunt, or they’re about to say the words. The distressing counterbalance is that in every few streets someone else is living in dread and living a lie”.

It used to be joked about in certain bars (I’m told) that there were three communities in Belfast: Catholic, Protestant and gay. And it’s almost certainly true that although the smallest of the three, that gays and lesbians per capita suffered more stress and harm than the other two put together…

Last word to Fionnuala:

If any, or better still every gay politician in Sinn Fein, the SDLP, DUP, Ulster Unionists and the smaller parties would speak out like Jerry Buttimer with strong support from their hero colleagues, they would be blessed – by the young and not so young, who’ve been shamed into silence.

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