The All-Ireland winning Dublin GAA footballer Ger Brennan pictured in his GAA jersey (in case we did not understand how truly wholesome he is) has come out as a No Vote for Equality referendum and the Irish Independent has given it democratic coverage. He is entitled to his opinion and his moderate and gentle language seemed reasonable and gave many a commentator the strength to say they wanted to vote No. This is a democracy and that is fair enough. I may not like your stance but you have a right to it.
The questions it raised for me were troubling though. Every child deserves a mother and a father or in Gers emotive and warm turn of phrase a “mam and a dad”. The No campaign have firmly used the family as sacrosanct, as a shield from which to throw badly aimed pies at people who scare them and their arguments do not make sense. Until you recognize the voice that is saying them. The shadow that lies behind the lulling phrases “I am proud to love my gay family members and my gay friends. And yet I feel truly there is more to the marriage debate than adult equality.” said Ger Brennan.
Oh I feel an oxymoron coming on here. I’m proud of you but lets be honest you deserve a different kind of equality to mine. The sort that makes you happy but enshrines my superiority. There seems to be a honest belief in Ireland that saying you are not homophobic because you can shake hands with a gay person, without vomiting, gives you the self righteous ability to stand for equality. It’s great that you can prevent your bile ducts from reacting to anothers sexuaity but as gently as I can, that really does Not make you Not homophobic. The belief that someone is your equal would be a fantastic start towards that and yes that is what a Yes vote means.
Let’s return to the shadow I heard behind the words Ger used “ Nor is this referendum about whether gay couples should have their relationships recognised by the State. They already do. Bar a couple of minor grey areas to be ironed out legislatively, gay couples in civil partnerships have all the rights married couples have. Civil partnership ceremonies are virtually identical to civil marriage ceremonies” By grey areas do you mean the 160 statutory differences. One of which does not protect any children of gay marriages should something go wrong, as the home they live in is a shared home not a family home. Is that ok Ger? Are we protecting children by lowering their legal entitlements or is it what they deserve because they are not born to the right sort of postcard family.
Children’s rights are a joke in Ireland and are a placard used again and again by the conservative right of Irish society and I have had enough. Pro Life take a hike, you are pro birth at best and do nothing to ensure a child’s quality of life. Now somehow gay marriage has been hijacked by children. I have to ask why as I am of the opinion that we do not really like children in this country. Our schools are overcrowded with an average size of 25-30 with 22.3% of children being in supersized classes of 30 or more. Well above the European average. We are closing our children’s libraries and pretty much see breastfeeding as obscene and a public disgrace. Make them eat in the toilets they are putting me off my burger! Where are the facilities for children in our cities, the museums, the public music programs, the sports facilities. Available yes but privately and beyond the regular purse string.
What about supports for impoverished families? Why are Vincent de Paul doing more Christmas runs? Could it be because the government cut the Christmas bonus. I’m not sure because technically we call ourselves christian in Ireland but surely Christmas is about children and consumerism? Then there is the proposed cuts to child benefit almost 3,000 families, in Galway alone, will lose 80euro a week from July. Joan Burton has stood over cuts to back school allowance, a tax on maternity leave and the age limit of single parents allowance going from 16 to 7. An obvious logic here, as at 7 children change and no longer need access to their parents as child care is more than sufficient. Tell me this, when a child is entitled to a mother and father is that from 6 – 7.30 each evening in between cooking, cleaning and making lunches while doing homework. Are they entitled to parenting or economic-burnout robots, whose love for their little ones make their suffering bearable. Is this what marriage entitles children too? Childcare and tired parents. Where plastic toys become a replacement for love from those too tired to give.
Will the No campaign be continuing their good work for children and ensuring that their rights are taken seriously by the Irish government or will the placard be dropped once the spotlight is off. How dare the conservatives of Ireland who buried babes in unmarked graves and prayed for forgiveness for the testing of vaccines on babies born out of wedlock, use children’s rights to hide their homophobia.
Or perhaps if we do make marriage for everyone, the shadow voice of old Ireland will finally have to be accountable for its sins. Will it be forced, once everyone is equal, to atone for the horrors it has rained down on the morally bankrupt whores and fagots who deserved everything they got. Will they say sorry or is it too late for that? Can the darkness of abuse that engulfs the histories of so many Irish children really be forgiven? Maybe this is why the No campaign needs to win. Can we really face our past, because this is what I see on every weak and ridiculous No poster. The dying voice of a frightened and hateful class of people who have hidden within the confines of a religion to protect themselves and their darkness.
Irelands has a shadow side, a darkness we run from and tidy away in convents, laundries and institutions. We fear our own capacity for hatred and violence and glue our “I’m Grand” so firmly in pace that this belief became enshrined in our constitution. I hear a frightened traumatized post-famine-tenant-farmer who just needs to keep going and pretend things are ok so he can survive. This shadow-side formed our government, our church and our culture. It is fear and behind the fear is just pain. Why say no to someone else’s happiness unless it threatens your own. If it threatens your own then look within. What is it about your life that makes you so unhappy, that you need to dictate to others how they live?
Marriage is not about breeding, we are not livestock! I now believe that a Yes vote means standing against a cruel and tarnished aspect of Irish culture that needs to be pulled from its closet and made to face the light. I hope the referendum will see a fresher Ireland. One that perhaps will genuinely look at children’s, women’s, LGBT, travellers and asylum seekers rights.Then once we have put tombstones on the graves of the forgotten Irish babes, we can look to the young faces of today. The next generation of this country and make them a priority instead of a chess piece. The voice of tomorrow cannot be used by the dying voice of Ireland’s darkness. It is simply wrong.