Belfast Telegraph

Robert McNeil: The bluster was of biblical proportions as modern life came calling only to have door shut in its face

Robert McNeil

Anyone with savvy will have noticed these last few years that your bog-standard bigot has made a habit of claiming he's the victim of prejudice. Very clever. They should form an organisation: Bigots Against Prejudice.

Luckily, no such bigots were in Stormont yesterday, just your usual collection of stout, upstanding weirdos metaphorically waving their Holy Bibbles aboot.

What prompted such scriptural gyration?

Well, it was another motion about same-sex marriage. All very educational: previously, I thought same-sex was what people in long-standing heterosexual marriages had. You know, the stuff you got over with before the football came on. The stuff you do on auto-pilot after a couple of secretly inhaled schnifters for courage.

But, no, the debate was about the rights of gay people to marry against the rights of churches to discriminate against gay people.

You look kinda brainy, so riddle me this: how come the unionists, with a few honourable exceptions, are all against same-sex marriage and the republicans in favour?

What is it about being British and unionist that makes you against gay marriage and being Irish and republican that makes you in favour?

I don't get the connection.

Is it a liberal versus illiberal thing?And when did hardline unionists get into bed with the Catholic Church over this? They're like an old married couple, bewildered by the modern world. Hey, it's a same-prejudice marriage! But maybe that's a debate for another day.

Yesterday's debate was kicked off by Bronwyn McGahan (Sinn Fein), who said: "You can't support equality and be homophobic." You could see people on the unionist quietly saying "damn".

Faced with interruptions, Bronwyn said: "I'm not giving way at all." Yup, that's the foundation of marriage, all right.

David Ford (Alliance) backed same-sex marriage but also believed churches should be able to practise their own beliefs without State interference.

He said if he lived in a Muslim country he'd oppose the imposition of Sharia law on non-Muslims. If you lived in a Muslim country, David, you'd keep your cakehole shut. Nobody interferes in the faith of their churches.

Simon Hamilton (DUP) said he didn't care what was happening in the Republic.

Astutely putting his finger on the problem, he noted: "We decide what happens in Northern Ireland."

He said it was wrong to pigeonhole opponents of same-sex marriage as bigots. They were ordinary, decent church-goers: Presbyterians, Catholics, the whole science fiction community.

Colum Eastwood (SDLP) pointed out helpfully that he was getting married this year "if things go the way I hope".

He sounded like he hadn't told the person he was hoping to marry about the plan.

Danny Kennedy (UUP) reminded us of the importance of "holy scripture" – Which bits? The stonings? The massacres? – and said he often recalled the words of Cardinal Wolsey (don't we all?) about serving God as he'd served his king.

Then he added this from Martin Luther (not Martin Luther King, as somebody thought): "Here I stand. I can do no other." Then he sat down.

Danny Kinahan (UUP) noted that, in Northern Ireland, there were 60 different forms of Christianity. Splitters! And he had this Eureka moment: "All we are doing here is bickering."

Several bickerers had supported the idea of people coming out and, accordingly, Roy Beggs (UUP) admitted to being an officer of the Boys' Brigade.

He said he didn't know there was a constitutional convention, noting: "I am a British citizen."

Well, that would explain it.

In a moving contribution, Michael Copeland (UUP) spoke of fine gay individuals he knew and recounted the story of Alan Turing who broke the Enigma code but was outed and committed suicide.

No need to break the code of straight-talking Sammy Wilson (DUP).

As he blustered on, my mind filled with the not altogether unconnected image of a rhinoceros playing the kazoo.

Sammy spent several hours complaining he hadn't been given enough time to ululate. Like us, he wondered where it would all end. "What happens when somebody says that they want to be married to two people or ... to three people?"

He added: "What about people who have other more bizarre views?"

Bizarre views, eh?

There's a novelty.

Belfast Telegraph


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