Belfast Telegraph

The DUP should realise that compassion is a two-way street

By Lindy McDowell

Outsiders might not always get this impression but despite our faults in Northern Ireland there still exists in this place an oul decency and fairness. The racists and homophobes, bigots and paramilitary thugs don't reflect this. But for every one of them I'd argue, there are twenty thousand decent, good people revolted by their words and actions and how they besmirch the name of the very communities they claim to represent.

An example - that recent protest against racism in east Belfast which was more strikingly representative of the decent people of that area than the racist yobs who burned down a beauty salon would ever be.

Whatever a vicious minority might try to suggest, we don't like bullying here, we don't kick a man when he's down, we do believe in live and let live.

Interestingly that sense of compassion comes into play twice over in respect of the Jim Wells resignation affair.

We have compassion for the man himself. His wife is very ill. He's been under enormous pressure. Of course we feel for him. Who wouldn't? He loves her deeply. She is his life partner.

But gay people love their partners, their life partners, too. Every bit as deeply.

Which is why the words which Mr Wells let slip, and which have hurt and distressed so many, have provoked such widespread and understandable sense of outrage.

Sometimes we talk about the "gay community" here and the "LGBT community" as if we're talking about some island tribe with no connection with the rest of us.

But the "gay community" is all our community. There are very, very few people who don't have gay friends or relatives they love.

And despite what the party hierarchy appear to think, among this wider gay community will be many DUP voters. Even, I'd risk a bet, many DUP members.

I'm sure that hierarchy think they know what they're doing, but their party's hard, harsh approach to gay rights is way out of step with general public opinion.

For one reason especially - because people don't like bullying. And the DUP's anti-gay obsession has become brutal.

There is an election on, yes, but this should not be about chasing votes. It should be about doing the right and the decent thing.

You don't have to be pro-gay marriage to be moved by the honest, heartfelt words of UUP man Danny Kinahan who during this week's debate on the issue in the Assembly, told how, "at school and in the Army I believed - and I'm ashamed to say joked, carried by the flow - that gay, lesbian and such matters were wrong and could be laughed at. I'd never really sat down and thought about it".

But he was shocked, he confessed, by the discrimination he saw when a fine soldier he knew was turned down for promotion on account of being gay.

Voting for gay marriage, he added: "I want a society here in Northern Ireland where no one is made to feel a second-class citizen to any extent and certainly not due to sexual definition. I want no discrimination whatsoever on account of religious belief or sexual orientation."

Noble, decent words.

Peter Robinson asks for understanding to be shown to Jim Wells who has been, he points out, under pressure for months.

And generally Mr Wells will be shown understanding and compassion. Not specifically because Mr Robinson pleads for it (as the former Health Minister's effective boss, wasn't there some failure in duty of care on his own part by not ensuring the man's load was lessened earlier?) but because of that oul decency we spoke of. Compassion, understanding ...

Words the DUP itself would do well to ponder.

Let's just hope Dave keeps his shirt on

After complaints that his campaign has shown a curious lack of energy, David Cameron throws off his jacket, flings wide his arms and announces he's now "pumped up" and "passionate".

He says that he's getting lively about it (presumably the election) and cries to his supporters: "Get out there and fight!" Suddenly he's part Poldark, part Floyd Mayweather. At least he's kept his shirt on. For now.

But I fancy if Mr Cameron - or Clegg or Miliband or even Farage - thought there would be an extra vote in being pictured Poldark style, bare-chested and being painted with fake tan, they'd be on it like a flash. These are desperate days. They'd stoop to any gimmick.

Thugs get into gear for bikes scheme

Even before the Belfast Bikes scheme got into gear, vandals had attacked one of the bike docks. Of course they had. It's the sort of mindless, senseless thing that we expect of vandals here.

Will the bikes initiative be a success? Remains to be seen.

Although there's no reason why - vandals permitting - it won't work.

Interestingly while you can hire the bikes, you need to bring your own helmet.

These don't come as part of the hire equipment.

Apparently one concern is the health and safety aspect of passing on head lice and such like.

Nobody wants to be part of a close nit community.

Belfast Telegraph


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