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Is Stormont right and everyone else wrong over gay marriage?

By Jane Graham

Published 29/05/2015

Happy times: marriage equality supporters celebrate in Dublin
Happy times: marriage equality supporters celebrate in Dublin

Last Saturday came at me in waves. It was a day that rose up, gently settled, then rose higher, over and over again. It's often the way with weddings, especially if you're close to and very much love the bride; the peaks of a mood turned up to 11 crash against your heart in moments of sudden, overwhelming happiness, then subside as you get your breath back.

A tiny break in the bride's voice when she makes her vows; the deep breath the best man takes before he stands up in a roomful of people to tell his brother, perhaps for the first time ever, that he loves him; the killer tune which hurtles you, mid Champagne-sip, up and across the dance floor in your stockinged feet (Born to Run, since you ask). They'll get you every time.

This was always going to be a very happy wedding, but there was an extra, entirely coincidental, frisson of excitement on Saturday which, for many guests, put the cherry on top.

Throughout the day our phones pinged with updates on the gay marriage vote down south. Constituency after constituency, the good news came flooding in, as the Republic threw off its shackles to Church dogma and generations of fear and prejudice, and embraced equality of love.

The astounding figures - "74% Yes in Dublin South East," shouted a fellow guest, waving a celebratory whisky at me across the bar - gave the wedding an undertone of righteous, gleeful celebration and gravitas.

We were so heady on the historic victory, we couldn't even muster a wrinkle of outrage at the hardy folk who had distributed Keep Marriage Pure leaflets outside the church earlier that day.

Like those senior figures in the Vatican who called the result "a defeat for humanity" (not the Pope, it seems significant to note), they're so out of step with the prevailing mood of Western Europe, it seems churlish to taunt them as their olde worlde prejudices fade into obscurity.

The pictures pouring in from the Republic as it proudly came of age were terrific fillips, too, on a par with the fuzzy Polaroids doing the rounds after pudding. It felt like the day was a series of oak-splitting smiles, increasingly, exuberantly, lopsided as the evening, and the singing and dancing, went on.

My mood took a particularly steep leap when I heard tell of two of my favourite great men of Ulster - Eureka Street novelist Robert McLiam Wilson and film writer/director Mark Cousins - who spent the day getting drunk together at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, then "tearfully excited and proud to be Irish" danced around the city's bars and "thought about getting married".

"We'd have done it if someone had had some confetti," said McLiam Wilson. The thoughts of his wife remain unreported, but I happen to know she loves a good wedding.

How ironic that this should happen at the crescendo of the debate about the conscience clause in Northern Ireland. I'm not in favour of any argument which draws its power from the frenzy of an over-stimulated mob, but the crest of a wave is a great place from which to get a good view.

With each passing day, Northern Ireland looks moribund and out of step with its neighbours. The referendum allows the Republic to claim its pro-gay marriage stance is supported by the vast majority of its population - a bold statement no other Western European country can make.

Caught between this unlikely new totem for equality and the rest of the UK, where gay marriage is already legal, Northern Ireland has to ask itself: can it really be the case that everyone else is wrong and Stormont is right?

Freedom of speech religiously censored

I interviewed Dylan Moran recently. He’s a lovely, funny man, but also a man of strong opinions, who probably ruffled a few feathers when he said he “loathed” the Church and described Pope Francis as “just another 500-year-old man in a dress talking about other people’s business, issuing edicts from a system based on the sayings of a political revolutionary from 2,000 years ago.”

I mention this because, though my interview was reprinted in a Dublin-based magazine distributed throughout the island this month, it’s unlikely you read that bit — it was cut out entirely.

Who says the censorship of freedom of speech is dead in Ireland?

Blatter meets his match in Loretta

Football has a new hero. Actually, make that heroine. She has the name of an Irish country singer and the steely look of a peeved Condoleezza Rice — no wonder Fifa is shaking in its boots after the telling-off the formidable US Attorney General Loretta Lynch gave it this week.

After years of anxious whispers, brazen denials and wobbly backbones, Lynch pulled no punches, declaring there had been corruption and bribery “over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament”.

She knew the details of the FBI investigation inside out and promised to “root out corruption and to bring wrongdoers to justice”. Good luck tussling with her, Sepp.

Belfast Telegraph

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