Human Rights Are Inalienable, Not The Subject Of A Public Vote

If you’ve been involved in the marriage equality campaign in Northern Ireland, or anywhere else for that matter, you’re bound to have heard “Why don’t you put it to a public vote?” as a means to resolve the issue. Whilst public support in Northern Ireland for equal marriage is incredibly high, perhaps even higher than in the Republic of Ireland in the run up to the 2015 referendum, but that doesn’t mean that a referendum would work here.

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The Australian Government, in an effort to fudge the issue and possibly kick the possibility of marriage equality becoming a reality into the long grass for another decade, has announced a voluntary postal plebiscite to gauge people’s views on marriage equality. The current Australian PM, Malcolm Turnbull, has publicly backed the idea of equal marriage in Australia but has a significant number of backbench MPs that are vehemently against the idea and any relaxing of the Liberal Party whip to allow supportive MPs to back a change in the law could see him ousted as Prime Minister. This is all conjecture of course, but the idea of a referendum on marriage equality is dangerous and divisive, whether in Australia, Northern Ireland or elsewhere. Continue reading Human Rights Are Inalienable, Not The Subject Of A Public Vote

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Moving On

Some of you already know but due to circumstances beyond my control or anyone else’s my tenure with the Rainbow Project will come to an end on September 8th.

No I wasn’t fired nor did I finally pluck up the courage to tell John O’Doherty that he can’t sing (He can but it doesn’t mean he should).

Funding decisions beyond our control mean that I’ll be moving on. No hard feelings and no regrets. It has been the greatest privilege and honour of my life to work for the Rainbow Project, an organisation that very literally saved my life. To work with the team and to contribute to that work has been life changing and I can only hope that I made a difference in some small way to people’s lives for the better.

I have had the opportunity to work on the equal marriage campaign in a very real and tangible way, which is something very few people can ever say. To have had the experiences, go to the places and meet the amazing people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made is a gift that I can never repay.

Thank you to John, Gavin and the whole Rainbow, Here NI and Cara Friend family for welcoming me, supporting me and giving me a chance. Thank you to John and Gavin and Nuala and the whole team for fighting for me and for being there through what has been a year of emotional ups and downs. Thank you so much to my wonderful volunteers that have made this job a delight and not just a paycheck. I will really miss you all very much.

Nothing sucks more than being made to leave behind something you really love doing. But such is life. I am proud of the work that I have done, I am proud of the people I have worked with. In the immortal words of the Tenth Doctor, “I don’t wanna go.” but to paraphrase a famous politician from this island, I’m not going away ya know.

Onwards and upwards.

What Do The GB Parties Have To Say About NI In Their Manifestos?

I’m always interested in what the mostly GB based parties have to say about Northern Ireland when it comes to Westminster election time. I was rather ill today so instead of looking after myself I went through the manifestos one by one to find reference to Northern Ireland. Want to know what they say? Here you go: Continue reading What Do The GB Parties Have To Say About NI In Their Manifestos?

The Union Of Inequals

As Theresa May tours the United Kingdom (see England, Scotland & Wales) on her Brexit pre-election tour we have just about been saturated by the phrase “Strong and Stable Government”. So much so that journalists, pundits and even voters are becoming tired of it. The Prime Minister has become known for empty buzzwords and phrases that are thrown out in the face of rather pretenseless questioning on the Government’s plan for leaving the EU. We have been gifted with gems Continue reading The Union Of Inequals

Getting Through The Day

Without going into much detail the last 12 months have been somewhat of a whirlwind. My relationship (which was abusive in nature) fell apart and I found myself without a home. My father passed away after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease and a short fight with bronchial-pneumonia and soon after I began encountering my own health problems. Soon after I landed my dream job of working on the equal marriage campaign within the Rainbow Project, I met someone new and I was accepted into Ulster University to study Counselling & Psychotherapy. Okay so maybe a little detail was needed but as I move into the next 12 months from when all that chaos started I find myself increasingly unable to find motivation or support within myself to get out of bed or to get through the day.

It’s no secret that I have lived with anxiety and depression, at times crippling, since the age of 16 and that over the last thirteen years I have found various methods of coping and readjusting my mindset in order to function and survive. But sometimes surviving just isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to just exist as someone who has depression or who doubts themselves every single day. A soul needs more than the promise of tomorrow to keep going and lately I have found myself becoming more and more agitated by the knowledge that my father isn’t coming back.

Losing a loved one is always a shock and it’s always sudden, even if you know that it’s coming. I have been there several times before when I have lost friends and relatives but it’s a completely different animal when you are faced with the prospect of parting ways with a parent. When you’re a kid you think your mum and dad will live forever, that they’re invincible and that you’ll never have to worry because they will always keep you safe. When the day comes that you have to help them to the bathroom or feed them because they can’t feed themselves you learn to accept the fact that what you believed as a kid isn’t true and that slowly but surely you will have to say goodbye. I watched Parkinson’s disease slowly take my father away from me, my brother and my mother and it is an illness that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It is sneaky, it is slow and it robs you of the person you love in ways and means that you didn’t think possible.

I realise now that I have been so demotivated and anxious about getting out of bed in the mornings because after dad died I only took a week off work and when straight back to it. Back to work, back to uni, back to the real world with no pause for breath in between. I threw myself headlong into the hustle and bustle of the equal marriage campaign (a job that I love) and into my college work with the aim of moving forward. I thought I was fine, that I was coping and that I was doing well for having just lost my dad but the truth was that I just wasn’t dealing with it.

Running away from my grief wasn’t a healthy way of processing what had happened but it doesn’t make it any less valid as a coping mechanism. What matters is that I recognise it now for what it was and understand that grief is not a five stage process or something that can be summed up in an Insta-Quote. It’s not true either that time heals everything. It still hurts every day, it just doesn’t hurt as much on the good days and it’s important to appreciate that there is no process to this, there is no tried and tested method for getting over the loss of a loved one. Grief isn’t linear and we each embrace it differently, just as we do with everything.

I have surrounded myself with a support network that I am incredibly grateful for, I have decided to take the time I need to process my grief and to be true to my own feelings. I came very close to burning out a few months ago and I forced myself to take a much needed vacation from the world for my own good.

I find it nearly impossible to wrap my head around the fact that he is gone, and often times I find myself crying at a song, a TV show that he would have watched, even something as simple as the smell of an aftershave or joke on the radio. Truth be told I haven’t visited my father’s grave since he passed bar for once when I visited with my mother and brother  last summer. That isn’t how I want to remember him.

My father was my best friend, he was the strongest, kindest and bravest man I have ever known and I owe it to him to look after myself and to take pride in the fact that I am his son. My mental health has always been challenging and such a devastating loss is no small thing to comprehend. On the day he died I wanted to grab the nearest person in the street and scream at them. Why was the world still turning and living? My dad was dead. But it does and we have to carry on, too.

I know this post was a bit of a mess from start to finish but it’s one of the few things I’ve been able to write in the last year and I feel better for having done it. I hope that if you’re reading this and you have recently lost someone that you know you aren’t alone. There is support out there and if you don’t have anyone else you have me. We all have times in our lives when the clouds don’t want to roll away but it’s important to remember that the Sun is just behind the clouds, waiting to break through. Patience can only do so much to mend a broken heart from grief but enriching your life with those that you love (and that has to include yourself too!) and finding ways of coping with the next ten seconds, and the ten seconds after that will make it that little bit easier.

Thanks for reading x

I Was The Victim Of Coercive Control

I haven’t been myself for some time now.

Well actually that’s not true is it. I am myself, who else would I be? I’m just not the me that I like or that I want to be right now. I’m not the me that got me through the last six months. Writing this has taken a long and drawn out process of opening the laptop, typing a few sentences, deleting it and closing the laptop before mentally bullying myself about how weak and useless I am. I rarely experience bouts of writer’s block but when I do I know it’s the sign of something much deeper, darker and more sinister than a simple lack of imagination or creativity. I have had almost no desire to exercise, no attention span longer than about 10 minutes for one activity and a decreasing passion for interacting with people face to face. Continue reading I Was The Victim Of Coercive Control

World Mental Health Day

Sanctioned for missing the bus.
Unable to afford the train to the GP
Sleeping in doorways to avoid the cold
Stealing napkins to wipe the blood
Because you can’t afford luxury items.

Raped but you’re a criminal if you use the pills you were given by a friend.
Forced to full term because they don’t want you to control your body.
Counting the days in the young offenders centre.
Scraping pennies to organise a phone call home.

Waiting in the queue for the foodbank.
Deciding between freezing or eating.
Not letting your kids watch the news
because they ask what ‘deport them’ means.
Being followed around the supermarket
because you’re young and black.

Not holding your partner’s hand in public.
Wondering if you’ll make it home tonight.
Being put on a waiting list for urgent care.
Fighting for your child to speak to someone who can help them.
Choosing between facing the stairs or missing the appointment.

But it’s okay.
They tweeted #WorldMentalHealthDay

Pride Is A Fire That Burns In Us Tonight

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I could not be prouder of Belfast tonight. We stand shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand with the victims of the terrorist attack in #Orlando. We raise our voices and our fists in defiance of the brutality and murder visited upon us by madmen and bigots whether it be Orlando or elsewhere.

We say love is love and love is beautiful. Love is beautiful and love is kind. Those who try to smash that won’t even make a dent. We laugh at those who try to divide us as with each strike we pull closer together. We have each others backs and all you do is unite us in a way that you fear. We laugh at your fear.

You try to silence us but with one voice we roar it will deafen you. Your time is up. Our time is now and forever. You cannot vanish us. You cannot stop us. You cannot win against power of diversity, equality and diversity. Thank you to those of you who stand with us daily.

Pride is a fire that burns in us tonight. You cannot extinguish the flames with the darkness that you create. A rainbow of sparks and flames that consumes us and reaches all of us from Orlando to Toronto and to Berlin, Sydney, Belfast, Johannesburg and Moscow. It burns brighter and fiercer than the hatred in your hearts. We will overcome.

This Isn’t Goodbye

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A few short hours ago we said goodbye to my best friend, my hero and the best man I ever knew. My father passed away peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his family, holding my mother’s hand.

Our hearts break but you are no longer in pain, nor will you ever be again. A life too full of heartache but one filled with love. We will miss you every day Dad but the time for sleep has come at last and we send you into the arms of God with a glad heart. I am so proud to call you my Dad.

You were the strongest person I knew. The bravest, the kindest and the man who instilled in my brother and I the qualities that make a good man. I only hope that we can live up to that example. Don’t worry about Mum, we will look out for her as she has looked out for us. This will be tough without you and my heart swells with pain, knowing that you will never sit in that daft old chair of yours again, but we will get through it together.

Sleep now, Dad. The time for tears is over and this world is better for have known your kindness and your love. 💙

Miss you with all my heart, until we meet again x

The DUP & SDLP Can’t Wrap Their Arms Around The Abortion Problem

 

In a recent leader’s debate on UTV the leaders of the five main political parties in Northern Ireland were all asked about their response to the conviction and suspended sentence that was handed down to an unnamed young woman who had procured pills to induce an abortion – I’ll come to that in a second but here’s a bit of backstory for you. I like to get you all caught up before I delve into a serious rant. Continue reading The DUP & SDLP Can’t Wrap Their Arms Around The Abortion Problem