Belfast Telegraph

Why love and tolerance aren't too much to ask for in 2015

By Jane Graham

As this newspaper arrives with its unsettlingly futuristic 2015 date heading, it seems only right that we - or, to be honest, I, as I have shamefully and arrogantly refused to survey a single member of the public on this - put together a short, not unreasonable, list of hopes and dreams for the coming year. God, Stormont, people - let us all come together to make me happy.

1 I hope this will be the year that Northern Ireland begins to distance itself from the institutional homophobia that embarrasses the vast majority of its good people.

Squirming to explain to outsiders the appointment of a health minister who maintains a ban on gay men giving blood, years after the rest of the UK has moved on, is humiliating enough. Dealing with his comments about Gay Pride marches being "repugnant" is even more of a struggle.

Let 2015 be the year that, rather than fighting to introduce clauses which claim to respect "conscience", but which instead make special dispensation for prejudice (the right for a baker to refuse to make "gay cakes", or for a hotelier to turn away gay guests, is simply, well, you know what it is) Northern Ireland becomes the number one European destination for rollicking gay wedding sing-songs.

2 Talking of song, let 2015 also be the year that Bono finds redemption.

His personal apology regarding the unsolicited dropping of the U2 album into every iTunes library in the land - an act which was compared to shoving poo through letterboxes - was clearly as painful for him as it was for us (and for the rest of U2, who sat manfully near, but not with, their dear leader throughout his statement, refusing to catch his, or our, eyes).

I believe the silly boy has learned his lesson and that his ego and (mis)comprehension of the public's unconditional love for his band, have been delivered a mighty blow.

Apparently, even the Pope is avoiding him; last time Bono called the Vatican, he was told Papa was "out the back giving the Punto a fresh wax and couldn't come to the phone". It's time to forgive.

3 It would gladden my heart if the general election in 2015 saw an end to the era of Cameron and Osborne. And, thus, probably the end of Cameron as a political force. It's not that Dave is evil (though Gidiot might be), it's just that he's an ineffectual, delusional uselesser with no understanding of the lesser privileged whatsoever. What my dad would call a balloon.

And some of the Tories' policies - the bedroom tax; the cutting of services to the disabled, those with learning disabilities and full-time carers; the withdrawal of crucial benefits and imposition of stricter requirements for others; the clampdown on asylum seekers - cause my tongue to lather.

4 I also have a dream that the hilarious banter culture of rape jokes, revenge porn, and Twitter trolling of any woman who refuses to apologise for asking for something ceases to be a thing.

And that the vast majority of nice men who respect women and were appalled by the brief success of comedy misogynist Dapper Laughs and "Calm Down and Stab Her" T-shirts are returned to their rightful place as the loudest voices in male culture.

5 In the same spirit of the kind of tolerance and compassion that Jesus was quite keen on, I also dream that 2015 is the year that the whole island of Ireland faces head-on its barbaric and antiquated anti-abortion laws.

Last year saw headline cases involving the treatment of pregnant women that made the world shrivel in horror - not least the most recent case of a family who had to go to the High Court in Dublin to fight for a brain-dead mother-to-be to be allowed to die with dignity, rather than being forcibly kept alive to serve as an incubator.

Please, even if Northern Ireland cannot bring itself to get into step with the rest of the UK in legalising abortion, let it show kindness and understanding to victims of rape, or women carrying foetuses with low odds for healthy lives.

Perhaps then we will no longer have to read about young girls who have been raped drinking cleaning fluid because they can't afford to travel abroad.

Oh, yeah, and can I have increased support for public libraries, a Number One hit record for The Holy Innocents, season four of Parks & Recreation on BBC4, Noel Fielding and Richard Ayoade made joint Arts and Culture ministers, Baftas for Jimmy Nesbitt and series three of Ripper Street, peerless princess of weird and wonderful music radio, 6Music's Mary Anne Hobbs made a Dame, joyless boring Tony to regress back into a coma in The Archers, and Chris Pratt on permanent standby outside my house?

Cheers. Happy New Year.

Belfast Telegraph

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