Taoiseach’s gestures won’t bring marriage equality, but banging heads might…

It’s been intriguing to watch Taoiseach Leo Varadkar develop as the first of a new generation of Irish political leaders. As Ireland’s first openly gay (and Asian) Premier it’s unsurprising he wanted to put down marker on gay rights in Northern Ireland with his promise to attend Pride in Belfast.

Yet, like his statement that the post Brexit border is now the sole responsibility of the feckless British, going to Belfast Pride has a popular appeal, but that public appeal is belied by the complex realities of the precise situation in Northern Ireland.

In fact, borders are the common property of any two countries whose interests they inevitably divide. Should the British exit the Customs Union then Ireland will be invested with solemn obligations both by the EU, and on behalf of the sovereign people of the twenty-six counties.

So, whilst Mr. Varadkar sounds tough, in reality “leaving it all up to the British” would be an unconscionably weak defence of Ireland’s national interest. It is this sort of ‘flattery to deceive’ which has allowed, for instance, SF to lead Northern Irish democracy (blindfolded, by and large) down a patch to self-negation and dissolution.

Northern Ireland is new territory for this younger generation of Fine Gaelers. With the notable exception of Joe McHugh, few of the new lads have had much direct contact with us and our addiction to petty (tribal) treacheries until their late elevation to senior power.
As such it may have escaped Messrs Coveney and Varadkar that the fastest track to marriage equality is to lobby long and hard for a return to Stormont.

Why? Because in the wake of the March election the DUP lost the means (via a ‘petition of concern’) to oppose an Assembly which is currently in favour of marriage equality. To be fair, it’s a state of affairs that has seemingly escaped even the writer of today’s leader in the Irish News. It matters, because progress here does not depend on taking sides, other than taking the side of democracy, then let Stormont do its work.

If allowed to continue drift (like almost every other urgent matter of concern to Northern Irish voters) beyond this year, then there’s even a chance the DUP will recover enough seats in a second election to continue its blocking tactics.

So, perhaps, rather than being drawn into bolstering SF’s tribalist strategy of alienating the DUP, Mr Varadkar, as a political grown up and co-guarantor of the Belfast Agreement, might instead choose the most direct (and only legitimate) route and pressurise both of NI’s hegemonic parties for a speedy return to Stormont and in the process help deliver marriage equality for Northern Ireland?

Whatever the temptations of the DUP-Con pact to shrink governmental responsibilities into a modern day pan nationalist front: for once, and in very real terms, fulfilling his constitutional responsibilities under the Belfast Agreement offer An Taoiseach his own most favoured outcome it’s optimal chance of success.

Unlike the Irish language lobby, who’ve endured ten sterile years for the non-arrival of their language act, gay and lesbian citizens (British and Irish) in Northern Ireland don’t have the time to fritter on the usual rake of false promises and post-dated cheques.

After the joy of Saturday, Mr. V needs to get to actual work on getting our recalcitrant government back to work.

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