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.

  • The Saint

    let’s get back to work lads

  • Msiegnaro

    This is completely unnecessary from the Irish Prime Minister and his comments on Brexit have been unhelpful in the extreme. We need to foster better relations with our neighbours in the ROI, however what we’ve seen so far has simply alienated Unionism.

  • Barneyt

    The DUP may not see him in such light but when the leader of another country arrives on your door step to help celebrate his and others sexuality, that conflicts with your party policy, it must resonate. It must help expose the rediculous state of affairs we have with many aspects of equality. Would not one or two in the DUP church so to speak not be forced to consider their party’s position as a consequence of his visit. Will it have no affect?

    With regard to stormont what can he do. Will the DUP listen? That’s not to say work is not outstanding with SF either but there is a correlation between his equality matters and that of SF. Both are unsupported and blocked by the DUP for a start.

  • the keep

    Leo is clearly style over substance operating with no mandate he will soon be gone.

  • Roger

    “…sovereign people of the 26 counties”.

  • Ruairi Murphy

    The premise of this piece is built around the assumption that, should Stormont get up and running in the morning, marriage equality legislation could no longer be thwarted be a “Petition of Concern”. But that is far from clear.

    30 MLA signatures are needed to trigger a PoC. The DUP have 28 and Jim Allistair has committed to backing a PoC if it is necessary to oppose marriage equality.

    That means this group of 29 MLA need only find one more signature to veto the wishes of the majority of MLAs and electorate.

    In the 2015 vote on marriage equality, the vast majority of UUP members opposed it, including new leader Robin Swann who has recently reiterated his opposition. Though Swann has made noises about not being in favour of backing PoCs for issues like this he has made no firm commitment to such a position and has not given any indication that he would force all MLAs to follow that position.

    It seems likely the UUP would treat another vote on marriage equality as a “conscience issue” and not enforce a whip to oppose it. There may be an abstention from Nesbitt and even a vote again in favour from Andy Allen but again the majority of their MLAs will oppose it.

    Given that we know there is still a significant right wing faction within the UUP who are vehemently opposed to LGBT rights, it is not hard to imagine that at least one of them would be happy to put their name to a PoC.

    Indeed it seems that the most probable outcome in the current assembly (were it alive today) would be that the DUP would find the extra names needed for a PoC on marriage equality quite easily.

  • 1729torus

    Indeed, this is all about punishing the DUP for engaging in stunts like failing to respect the joint nature of OFMdFM or wanting to take NI out of the customs union.

  • Surveyor

    And the policy of saying nothing has helped how?

  • Aodh Morrison

    Empty virtue signalling is getting is fairly common in western politics. High-fiving the prevailing social media attitudes goes down ok. It ignores the fact that the politics needed to get over entrenched antediluvian views neeeds hard work.

    The Taoiseach’s visit will hopefully be fun for him, and no doubt some will take hope from his visit, but no one needs a high profile visitor to Belfast Pride to highlight the nonsense that is the denial of equal marriage in 2017.

    So I welcome Leo’s visit, but putting local politicians’ noses back to the grindstone is what will get the job done.

  • Zack E. Nolan 2

    Well said MF, and right that you label him as an Asian, too much PCness going on.

    We don’t need the Irish Prime Minister, a man who is fast becoming a SF stooge, coming to the UK and telling us what to do.

    He should be sorting out his own country, not interfering in ours.

  • Msiegnaro

    The Custom’s Union was related to a nationwide vote.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Half Asian. He considers himself Irish. Surely his identity is up to him and not entirely determined by any ‘ethnicity’ that you perceive.
    “He should be sorting out his own country, not interfering in ours”
    MF did point out that his Gov’t and his Office are co-guarantors of the Belfast Agreement. I suggest you develop a better understanding of what’s incumbent on the Irish Gov’t, i.e. ensuring that devolution is restored and continues to function.

  • ted hagan

    Well whatever Varadkar’s failings, it still goes to show how many light years ahead the Republic is in progress and evolution.

  • Zeno

    “Surely his identity is up to him and not entirely determined by any ‘ethnicity’ that you perceive.”

    Jeez this PC stuff is hard to keep up with. Are we not allowed to call Asians, Asians now.

  • Zeno

    Don’t worry, He’s ticked all the boxes in a two day trip. You won’t hear from Leo again.

  • Surveyor

    He’s hit a raw nerve, that’s for sure.

  • Zeno

    He might have the Obama effect and SSM will lose support if he’s not careful.

  • Neil

    It’s not that difficult Zeno, if someone is born in a country and considers himself (or, to be insufferably PC, herself) to be from that country then it’s generally expected everyone respects that. Some don’t granted, but that is the PC position.

  • Damien Mullan

    Unless the referendum result specifically stated the Customs Union then you are gravely mistaken. It was about EU membership only, in the political sense, i.e. the Council of Ministers and those issues that relate directly and exclusively to EU membership. Turkey is after all in the Customs Union.

  • Hugh Davison

    Leo Varadkar was born and brought up in Ireland. He is Irish, not Asian, whatever you want to call him.

  • Damien Mullan

    A rather passive aggressive effort here Mick. Imploring Leo to take the “most direct route”, while lambasting Sinn Fein and the Southern establishment over their failure at efforts for restoration, in order that they might put Marriage Equality to a vote again, seems the most bizarre angle this subject has yet been filtered through.

    I would have taken the rather “more direct route”, of highlighting the DUP’s rather annoying tendency, annoying to this social liberal, of not only voting against the measure but also of invoking the Petition of Concern to strike it dead. But then maybe I’m being naive and it’s surely all the Shinners fault.

    We are being implored by some British commentators towards ‘chaos theory’ as explanation for the current British negotiations, but yet a government which has for 12 months calmly and considerately lain out its independent and sovereign policy for the border is derided as “weak”. The Irish government policy is quite clear, nothing is to change at the border, the Irish democratic political system is not venturing policies that ask for a change in the totality of relationships, either across these islands or between these islands and the continent, however the UK is.

    Demanding, or even politely requesting, that Ireland’s political system hop to the British tune, is an encroachment of the domestic imperatives of the Irish political system. This is why annoyance is so great. There is no appetite in Ireland for doing what the British intend to do unto themselves, yet the British are demanding that Ireland, it’s government, it’s parliament ,engage, certainly if reports are to be believed about Revenue’s recent activities, to investigating and mapping out border ‘solutions’ to potential issues the Irish cannot at this moment in time be certain of themselves, because, believe this or not, the British are themselves completely unsure, ‘chaos theory’, remember it’s surely ‘chaos theory’.

  • Damien Mullan

    I knew it wouldn’t be long before Leo Varadkar’s heritage would be brought up by some people.

    He’s been at cabinet level in ROI for 6 years, a TD for 10, and yet one considered and clammily delivered statement in relation to the border elicits these kinds of responses from unionists. I’m sure Varadkar has faced derogatory statements by people in the south during his lifetime, but none that I know of on this forum thus far.

    Yet one statement that upsets some unionists and they go full nuclear and bring his ethnic heritage into the equation.

    It’s these kinds of reactions why I fear for Polish or other minorities being housed in unionist/loyalist areas. After all, look at the treatment Anna Lo received after she expressed her opinion on Irish unity.

  • mickfealty

    What’s the alternative [failsafe] plan?

  • mickfealty

    Have we no room for nuance Hugh?

  • Gary Thompson

    Indeed he will not bring marriage equality about but the move alongside recent statements suggests Dublin has had quite enough of political unionism’s constant state of self imposed alienation (outrage, uproar, anger… insert as applicable). The political establishment in the South are in the tricky position of essentially being on the same side as SF regarding Brexit, ILA and equal marriage. Modern FG it seems are not overly concerned with objections to Dublin’s nose poking into northern affairs and are probably in agreement with Brian Feeney’s assessment that the DUP will be sold almost as quickly as they were bought in London, accusations of narrow Shinner shining ring hollow when the overall message is shared and the aims just. Leo is fully aware that the strength of the DUP position in supporting the Tories is but a mirage compared to the shock of cruel rejection waiting over the hill. On Saturday Leo will dine not so much in solidarity with the LGBT community but in opposition to DUP dinosauronics. The Pride ‘demonstration’ for equality will also be unique in that it will include members of the security services where only 40 years before such personnel were employed to batter similar demonstrations against the state off the streets. As for SF’s equality demands (or tribalism depending on one’s sauce), wherever they might have hoped to find an ally, its certainly doubtful if they ever expected to it come in the form of FG’s Varadker and Coveney. Everything has changed, utterly.

  • Devil Éire

    Nuance? Didn’t you see Zeno’s comment?

  • Devil Éire

    And how would you feel about that?

  • Barneyt

    I’m no Fine Gael supporter but there is no immediate appetite for an election in the south and Leo is riding high. Who’s knows what will emerge that may damage him but for now, why are you so sure he’s politically terminal

  • Barneyt

    Some would take issue with calling him Chinese ye know. Asian has different meaning in different places. It’s a broad sword and perhaps a lazy very mainland British way of racial profiling and classification. He hails from the Indian subcontinent on one side but that only matters to me if he can leverage something in his fathers homeland that benefits Ireland. It’s not PC to suggest his race does not matter. It’s just normal. Why focus on it

  • Barneyt

    Matters such as LGBT rights sure are pan social. No one side is compromised if equality is achieved surely. If unionism is and has to once more weild the poc, it renders itself discriminatory across the board and unionism there should be subject to a persistent POC until it submits to common decency on this matter. That might trigger a POC however. What’s the definition of recursion again?

  • Barneyt

    Maybe but tell me more. I’m not sure he’s for the chopping block any time soon?

  • Msiegnaro

    It’s too intricately related to the EU that to remain in it would be a betrayal of the spirit of Brexit.

  • Jag

    Such a pity Leo won’t be in the Parade itself (this year), the image of Taoiseach, in his smart-casual polo shirt and rainbow garland, and being welcomed and celebrated on the streets of Belfast would have been game-changing.

    Anyway, will we be seeing Gardai on the streets of Belfast in the Pride Parade, and in full uniform? Alongside their PSNI colleagues.

  • Jag

    Even in the liberal South, 38% of the population bothered to go to the voting stations to vote “no”. Unlikely that less than 38% of NI MLAs (34) are opposed to equal marriage.

  • Jag

    Welcome to senior hurling, as we say in the South. You voted to leave the EU. Default position is, you’re now Albania. If you want to improve on that, put forward realistic proposals. Otherwise, you should recalibrate your economy to focus on basic manufacturing, tobacco, mineral extraction, heroin distribution and sex trafficking.Të lumtë!

  • Zeno

    So while calling someone Asian is not apparently an insult we need to check with what he wants to be called himself, before we use the word Asian?

  • Zeno

    Oxford English Dictionary.
    Asian
    Usage
    In Britain Asian is generally used to refer to people who come from (or whose parents came from) India, Pakistan, or elsewhere in South Asia, while in North America it refers to people from China, Japan, and other countries of East Asia

  • epg_ie

    It’s always Sinn Féin’s fault, right? It’s never DUP’s fault for opposing gay marriage here?

  • Neil

    Yeah, kind of. Most people would probably air on the side of caution in these intolerant times and say he was an Irishman of Asian extraction. Especially at the stage when be becomes the leader of the country, you have to assume he sees himself as an Irishman first and foremost.

    PS – are you Zeno from years ago, or are you a new Zeno? Just curious. 🙂

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    The problem with affixing labels (of your own choosing and not adjectives) onto selected people is that you see the label only and not the person that you stuck the label onto. It’s a mark of a lack of imagination and a need to categorise.

  • The worm!

    “Jeez this PC stuff is hard to keep up with.”

    It is indeed, I think there should be weekly updates or like a newsletter or something issued to help people like me keep up with the latest.

  • epg_ie

    Tell us your alternative to public engagement, aka “virtue signalling”. As far as I can see, it’s high-minded seclusion and alienation from/fear of empathy in politics, as most recently attempted by one Theresa May.

  • Gaygael

    The previous Petition’s of concern were exclusively DUP. No UUP MLA has ever signed one on marriage.
    LGBTQ equality is not just about marriage.

  • Zeno

    I feel insulted and offended that you would ask me such a question.

  • Zeno

    I feel insulted and offended that you would ask me such a question.

  • Zeno

    I don’t think he’s politically terminal, I just don’t think he’s is that interested in Northern Ireland and is just ticking the box as a political maneuver. At the same time he is showing his support for SSM. So that will be him all done and dusted as far as NI is concerned.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Exactly, if he’d been brought up in another part of the world he could be seen as a product of that culture. If he’d been brought up in his father’s homeland then he might be labelled as Irish because of one of his two parents – just a possibility. But then other parts of the world respond to such matters very differently from some white folks. In 2017 the emblematic nature of his perceived ethnicity/otherness is something that we shouldn’t fixate over.

  • Hugh Davison

    Where’s the nuance in Zeno’s postings?

  • Ruairi Murphy

    There was never any need for a UUP MLA to expend political capital and tack themselves on to a PoC before on this matter – why would they have, they were safe in the knowledge the DUP would always block it. That has changed now.

  • The worm!

    Why is anyone at “fault” for opposing it?

    Taking the view that it is contrary to the very concept of “marriage” is a perfectly legitimate stand point.

  • Nevin

    “whilst Mr. Varadkar sounds tough”

    Perhaps the anti-Brexit intervention was just another Leo gaffe.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Some of ye would need a bit more than a newsletter……….

  • Damien Mullan

    What, as much of a betrayal as the extra £300 million towards the NHS. If the campaign was all sacred and hallowed ground, then that has to be honoured, as well as all the other proposals, even those that were contradictory.

  • Damien Mullan

    The more accurate analogy would be the number of TD’s and Senators that supported the vote in the Oireachtas to call a referendum, the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015.

    “The Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015 was debated in the Dáil on 10 and 11 March 2015. Several deputies from different parties spoke in favour. The only speaker to oppose it was independent TD Mattie McGrath; it was passed without a division (i.e., by voice vote). It was then debated in the Seanad on 25 and 27 March. Votes were held on a number of proposed amendments, all of which were defeated, and the Bill was finally passed by 29 votes to three. Among those speaking in favour was Katherine Zappone, who was a Senator at the time. Those who voted against were Senators Rónán Mullen, Jim Walsh and Feargal Quinn; the opposition amendments were also supported by Senator Fidelma Healy Eames.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty-fourth_Amendment_of_the_Constitution_of_Ireland

  • Damien Mullan

    Can we all at least agree how disastrous importing Plebiscitary Democracy into a deeply Parliamentary Democracy is. The British Constitution gives no credence to the results of referenda, which is why Theresa May was forced to get a Commons vote to trigger Article 50, and even had the Supreme Court found in her favour in relation to the Royal Prerogative, the Royal Prerogative’s activation comes from the Executive Committee (the government) of Parliament. The British system lacks the constitutional scaffolding and familiarity of Plebiscites, which partly, minus the inherit complexity of the divorce subject matter itself, explains the confusion and inertia. The British have sodomized their own system of democracy. The crisis is even greater than the mere issues thrown up by the negotiations and divorce. Real and lasting damage has been done to an institution that has had a profound impact the world over, and the British themselves have wielded the hammer.

  • Devil Éire

    I see that you displayed the same lack of nuance as Zeno when you referred to Varadkar as ‘Asian’.

    So: referring to him as ‘Asian’ is nuanced whereas calling him ‘Irish’ is not?

  • mickfealty

    So let’s not put them on the spot?

  • Ruairi Murphy

    Well going back to what I think is supposed to be the point of your piece, Varadkar and the FG government has made clear a number of times now that they believe the current logjam needs to be sorted and the Stormont Executive restored. They appear to put pressure on Sinn Fein to deliver this more than any other actor. I don’t think Varadkar would disagree with the point that the best way forward for Northern nationalists is through the restoration of Stormont.

    Clearly your real issue is with Sinn Fein though and not Varadkar. It would be politically naive to say the least for Sinn Fein to go back into Stormont without any progress on the very slim chance now that all UUP MLAs could be persuaded (shamed?) into not backing a PoC on marriage equality (not to mention the number of other issues at stake). That’s a suggestion not based in political reality. We all know the likelihood is that a PoC would be triggered by Unionism to block any progress.

    The religious right of Northern Ireland (that includes RCs as well as protestants) have been “on the spot” for some time on a variety of social issues and it does not appear to have phased them.

  • Msiegnaro

    There will certainly be huge savings to be made, of that there is no doubt.

  • Ian Rate

    Interesting to see how well it would be received on ” the mainland”.
    The awfully nasty name calling will start all over again and T.M. will start to find a way to lose or nullify her political anchor/support.

  • Damien Mullan

    I wonder how much the UK below trend growth of this year has cost, I’d hazard a guess at the 10’s of billions lost to the UK economy because of the damage inflicted. So the net UK contribution of £8.6 billion to the EU budget, which enables non-tariff market assess to 450 million people, in both goods, and portions of services and finance, is not worth such access. By all means you can point to an FTA, but they don’t cover services and finance. So any ‘savings’ are going to be dwarfed by the costs.

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    Anyone else who uses the loaded term “marriage equality” to describe the destruction of marriage and the healthy family is best ignored. We have civil partnerships – shut up will you.

    Mr. V needs to (literally) bugger off and get back to work in his own country.

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    Unhygienic perverts should never be equal to healthy people.

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    Yes absurd that the security services are promoting a political event by destructive degenerate anarchists.

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    Bvggery is not a “sexuality”. That is the interaction between male and female.

    Enough if this “equality” rubbish. Everything of interest in the universe exists precisely because it is not “equal” to other things around it.

  • Zack E. Nolan 2

    Ben, I don’t think the half matters, do you. Obama for example would be labelled African. Don’t be so PC crazy.

    It’s nothing to do with colour btw – if for example MF was our PM, his non British name would make many label him as Irish no matter how similar our views are. It’s all about perception and how different people are. Embrace it!

  • Devil Éire

    That’s surprising. I asked because you oppose adoption by same-sex couples. So it is not a giant leap to suppose that you might be against same-sex marriage itself. Of course, one can self-consistently oppose the former and not the latter, but your claim to feel insulted and offended by the question is stretching my credulity.

  • file

    There is no Irish Prime Minister. There is a Taoiseach. Go on, use the term: your head wil not explode if you use it.

  • file

    Zack. You know the provision in the GFA agreement for all people in Northern Ireland to have Irish citizenship if they want, what effect do you consider that to have? Do you think it is just words? The Taoiseach is the leader of the government in the jurisdiction which a large number of NI residents choose to be citizens of. He is not ‘interfering’ when he visits this part of the UK; he is representing those citizens.

  • Zeno

    Odd that you know my opinion on same sex adoption and you don’t know my opinion on SSM. If you found one, you can easily find the other.

  • Msiegnaro

    I was not being rude by not using it, happy to do so if it makes others happy? Incidentally what is Taoiseach in English?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    I got this from a simple bing search: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoiseach
    Given the representative nature of Irish & Scottish clan culture the similarity to the British PM’s status as primus inter pares is built in.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    I remember James Callaghan was British PM but I don’t recall any debate about his Irish name stripping him of anything (apart from a dig made by Heath).

  • Reader

    Damien Mullan: Turkey is after all in the Customs Union.
    More accurately, turkey is in *a* customs union with the EU, rather than in *the* EU customs union. The UK may actually be interested in a similar arrangement, especially since it isn’t tied to Freedom of Movement.
    (for some inexplicable reason, EU doesn’t seem to be so interested in sharing Freedom of Movement with Turkey as with the UK)

  • Msiegnaro

    So it means Prime Minister, thanks for bringing us back to the beginning.

  • Gaygael

    I am neither unhygienic nor a pervert.

    I would love you to try say that to my face you spineless coward.

  • Ruairi Murphy

    Is this a parody account?

  • Tochais Siorai

    Denis Healey’s grand uncle (and his grandfather to a lesser extent) were active Irish Republicans. Never was brought up but maybe nobody knew.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Yes indeed. I believe there are suspicions that some of these degenerate anarchists may be homosexual as well.

  • Devil Éire

    Not really. You’re assuming I had to search the site to find your opinion on the adoption of children by same-sex couples. I didn’t – I simply remembered a thread where you shared your silly bar-stool musings on that topic (because I made some comments in response). In case you had forgotten, you suggested that same-sex couples would be inferior to different-sex couples as parents of adopted children, for reasons that were so obvious that you couldn’t tell me, but that a social worker could easily shed light on. I don’t think it’s that much of a leap to suspect that you might also be against same-sex marriage – if only to prevent the spectre of same-sex couples adopting children. Certainly, if anybody should be offended and insulted, I think you are somewhat down the list.

  • Zeno

    I really don’t care about same sex marriage, you marry whoever you want.

  • file

    leader, chieftain, rule.

  • Devil Éire

    Thanks for your permission, but I am not affected personally by the availability of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    Often goes hand in hand

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    I would happily tell it to your face if you asked me my opinion on your enjoyment of other mens’ faeces.

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    So you think sadistic faecal play id a healthy thing to promote to children with bright colours then?