We Need A Radical, United Left

NOTE: This is a work of fiction and idealism and not a serious proposal for a new way of thinking.

Okay so we’ve all heard it before, a radical left wing alternative the austerity driven politics of the current mainstream Westminster clique. We’ve even heard from within the same clique in the vein of Jeremy Corbyn and his ability to command the respect of his own MPs never mind the country remains to be seen. We have too many left-wing alternatives in the UK and Ireland and frankly the watered down collective of barking opposition needs to come to a decision: either they unite as one movement with one vision and message or we fade away into obscurity, relegated to anti-war, anti-austerity and anti-cuts protests with no representation at a local, devolved or state level.

How does that help us? Well it doesn’t. Instead we’ll be represented by diverse, leaderless and rudderless ‘grass roots’ movements suffering from the effects of splits and mergers and dissolutions for generations. One thing the left has always been good at is losing and its inability to organise to oppose its real enemies instead of denouncing each other. In house fighting benefits us not. The Tories and UKIP represent the centre and the further right of the political spectrum in the UK. That’s it. Smaller fringe movements like the BNP and Britain First represent the very worst that the right has to offer but mainstream right-wing parties such as the Conservatives know that those micro-movements will never dent their vote nor will they undermine them in swing seats the way UKIP might and even then it’s likely that the Conservatives would enter into a coalition with UKIP should they need to – they wouldn’t do that with the BNP or BF.

What I’m saying here is that the right is relatively stable and has successfully marginalized those fringe elements to the point that they aren’t even associated with the likes of the Conservatives. The left hasn’t got the same luxury of distance and it lacks a clear vision and message. Many parties like the Anti-Austerity Alliance, Socialist Party and Left Unity don’t have a leader. They are run by a collective or a leadership team with a rotating chair or presidency. That’s fine in a utopian society and God knows we need fairness and transparency but with no real figurehead or guiding voice then what hope do we have of any electoral success?

I no longer consider the Labour Party of either the UK or Ireland to be left wing in the sense that I believe is desperately needed. Nor do I want a Syriza style project of opposition for it’s own sake. We need radical yet relatable policies that can be sold to the electorate and that stand up under scrutiny. I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn is the man to do that and he has a mixed bag of Blairites and former Marxists and Social Democrats that he needs to bring together into some form of cohesive opposition before he can extend an olive branch to the non-Westminster left.

There are several parties that, already, have the potential to work together in Parliament and it makes no sense to me that they stand candidates against each other when their aims are broadly similar in nature. Parties like the Lib Dems, Labour, The Greens and to a lesser extent the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru all share broadly similar aims when it comes to environmental issues, and social justice. The issue between them though is that they haven’t learned how to effectively use the Westminster electoral system to take advantage of where the common ground lies and instead they split the moderate and progressive vote to within an inch of its life. Let’s look at an example; take the Westminster constituency of Brighton Kemptown:


Here we have four different parties (Labour, Greens, SNP and to a lesser extent the Socialist Party) splitting the left wing, progressive vote and letting the Conservatives slide in with a slim majority of 690 votes. Had the Lib Dems, Labour and the Greens supported an electoral pact by standing a candidate for the party with the strongest historical performance in the constituency they would have taken it with a majority of 3,931 and a left wing candidate returned to the Constituency for the first time since 2005. The case is the same in the Welsh Westminster constituency of Gower where the Conservatives have a slim majority of 27, the smallest majority in the 2015 General Election. Had there been a unified platform of the left and liberal left then they could have held the constituency with 5,840 votes. Ironically one of the parties that contested that constituency was the Trade Union & Socialist Coalition which is an umbrella electoral organisation made up of leftist, anti-austerity parties and movements. The situation repeated itself in Derby North, Croydon Central, Bury North, Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, Thurrock, Telford, Eastbourne, Dumfriesshire  Clydesdale & Tweeddale, Bolton West, Weaver Vale, Plymouth Moor View, Lewes, Bedford, Lincoln, Thornbury & Yate, Twickenham, Cardiff North, Southampton Itchen, Waveney, Corby, St Ives, Southampton Itchen and Kingston & Surbiton.

When looked at objectively there are enough marignal seats won by Conservatives because of a split progressive/left-liberal vote to have denied David Cameron a second term if there was a broad platform under which joint-candidates could have been elected. That being said the feeling of spurned nationalist pride in Scotland would never have allowed the SNP to allow Labour a free run in any of the 56 constituencies it now holds nor would Labour or the Greens allowed the same of the Liberal Democrats after what many people consider Nick Clegg’s betrayal of the trust of the people when he entered into a coalition with the Conservatives. If we have a re-run of the 2015 General election in 2020 then we would see a Labour dominated Government in coalition with the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Greens and with the Lib Dems working with the coalition on a supply and demand arrangement. I don’t expect the Lib Dems would ever voluntarily sacrifice centrist economic policy for political powr. Granted that is a broad coalition of factional parties but if Labour are willing to lurch to the left and if Corbyn can command his MPs then why not? Nicola Sturgeon has already said that she would work with any party to deny the Conservatives the keys to No. 10 and I see no sign of the SNP’s unified electoral machine waning between now and 2020 (That’s if we don’t have another independence referendum before then). The Greens could demand a role for their MP(s) in DEFRA, SNP in the Scotland Office and greater devolution concessions, likewise for PC in Wales and the Lib Dems could insist that Labour implement a radical social justice programme.

For that to work there has to be a hell of a lot of tongue biting and sacrficing of core voters in some areas. There would need to be an agreed manifesto for this new platform of the left to work with something akin to a ten point plan that all the parties would have to commit to. Labour would have to concede defeat to the SNP in Scotland, at least for a while, and the Greens & Lib Dems likewise to Labour in areas where they are the cause of a split vote. In order for that to work Labour would need to radically rebrand itself and give major concessions to those parties as the idea of a Labour majority government ever making it back into power is now more distant than ever. Corbyn will need to extend an olive branch to those fringe movements and parties such as the Worker’s Party, Socialist Party, Left Unity etc that all share his anti-austerity ideals and his progressive aspirations if this is to work – and again this is just my idea and not something that I am planning on organising – but if the left and the progressives stay as divided as this then what hope do we have?

What’s more likely to happen though is that as Labour goes further left the Blairite MP’s in its ranks will feel more and more isolated and I think a split is on the cards within 2 years when a leadership challenge against Corbyn by one of those MPs fails. Perhaps they’ll form a new party or resurrect the SDP? Maybe they’ll defect to a resurgent LibDem team? Labour will continue to chase the votes it lost to the SNP in Scotland and whilst it may retake one or two marginal seats it will become clear after the 2016 Holyrood elections that Labour’s game in Scotland is over. With another Scottish independence referendum likely before 2020 and if it decides to go it alone then we can kiss goodbye to any SNP opposition in Westminster.

The Lib Dems will never enter into any serious coalition with parties such as the Greens or the Socialists under one banner and vice versa. The Lib Dems are a party that voted for welfare cuts and that legacy will likely make them toxic for further left wing parties to associate with. Likeiwse the Lib Dems would never take fringe parties like Left Unity and the TUSC as serious partners.

Unfortunately the scenario I have proposed is pie in the sky. Politics is much too fractured and egotistic in nature for any rainbow coalition to actually work together.

I’m 27 and I Don’t Want To Die Before I’m 40

I’m not writing this because I’m hungover or because I spent too much money on alcohol or because I did something I regret last night. I’m writing this because I have done all of those things way too often when drinking. At 27 years old I’m not as healthy and fit as I should be, or could be and that is my fault.

I weigh just a hair under fourteen stone and I’m five foot, seven inches. I have an unhealthy BMI and according to my doctor my blood pressure is through the roof. My diet recently has spiralled from ‘a cheeky Chinese takeaway’ on a Friday night to snacking on biscuits, crips, soft drinks and eating processed food way too often. I used to smoke quite heavily and would have enjoyed a cigarette on a night out – usually I felt the need to nick a cigarette from a friend or a randomer in the smoking garden of whichever dive bar I ended up in and bent the ear off the poor sod standing beside me. If I was hungover the next day my daily routine would consist of something deep fried followed by something else deep fried followed by something fizzy and accompanied by something sweet until I felt ‘cured’ enough to sleep it off.

I’m tired of Sundays being a write off. My career as a writer depends on me being able to both focus on my work and let my hair down when both are appropriate – I can’t allow one to interfere with the other and I have often cited working too hard as a reason for drinking when in fact the opposite has been the case. That is a dangerous road that I don’t want to even attempt to have a nosey at. A week or so ago I woke up with incredibly painful sensations in my chest at around 3am. Thinking it was nothing major I tried to go back to sleep only to be woken up by the same pains a few hours later.

I made my way to A&E on the advice of the out of hours GP and spent the next five hours being looked at, prodded and tested by doctors in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. It scared the living crap out of me when they brought me through to to the Clinical Assessment Unit and a friendly nurse asked me if I needed anything to make me more comfortable. I looked around me and I was in a room with people that were properly sick and ill and it scared me to death.

In the end I was told that my diet and cigarette intake are slowly going to kill me and I need to do as much as I can to lower my blood pressure because it was through the roof. I’m 27 – I have a sedintary job and since around April this year a pretty sedintary lifestyle. I lost a ton of weight between 2013 and 2014 by exercising, eating right and going to the gym but a bad breakup and a depressive episode completely undid all that hard work and I am in a worse situation than I was 12 months ago. Clothes that fit me then do not fit me now and I can barely run a 5k on the treadmill at the gym on those rare occasions when I dare to darken their door. I’ve been told that I’m not allowed another cigarette – I know this is basic common sense but I’ve never had a doctor actually tell me that as a result of a medical assessment. It’s pretty scary, guys.

As far as alcohol goes apart from a glass of white wine with a meal or a cocktail on a night out I am not venturing much further into the liquor cabinet ever again. I have had too many incidents recently of not remembering large parts of my night, losing things, getting into arguments, spending all my money and wasting my Sundays consuming large amounts of garbage or hugging the toilet bowl. How is that enjoyable? Is that the measure of a good night out these days? How badly your phone is broken or how many keys you’ve managed to misplace? There is a serious drinking culture in this country and it is only since venturing out relatively sober that I’ve realised just how bad it is.

You lose all control of yourself and do and say things to other people that in any other circumstance would be completely unacceptable. There is more to life than consuming as much alcohol as humanly possible before a nigh out and then continuing to force what is essentially poison down your throat until you either pass out, vomit or both. I’m not having a go at anyone in particular here apart from myself but if this sounds familiar to you then you know that this isn’t healthy. What’s it worth? A decimated bank account, a fuzzy memory of what may or may not have been a good night and a crippling fear of what you may or may not have said to someone you care about? Add that to the multiple health implications of binge drinking and you are starting to erase yearsfrom your life.

Going out and not drinking is also an incredibly difficult thing to do in a society that puts more value on the impending hangover than on getting home safe. I can’t go out and not drink without being accosted by at least four or five people who insist – actually insist – that I drink or else I’m not enjoying myself. If I don’t want to drink or if someone else doesn’t want to drink then neither they nor I should have to make up an excuse as to why we don’t want to. That should be the end of your line of enquiry. I don’t want a fucking drink and that doesn’t mean you can’t drink, it just means I don’t want to. It is entirely possible to enjoy a night out with either one glass of wine, a non-alcoholic beer or a diet Coke. It doesn’t make me weak, it doesn’t make me any less interesting and if you depend on alcohol to feel both confident and interesting then you need to have a word with yourself. That is why I have stopped – I used to depend on alcohol to give me the buzz that I needed to feel like a champion and that is called addiction, folks (or at least the beginnings of it).

We are a nation of borderline alcoholics and it only takes a casual glance into any nightclub in Belfast on a Friday or Saturday night to see that. Having a table piled high with bottles of wine, vodka and whiskey that need to be consumed with inhuman abandon is not how I intend to have a good time any more. I’m not at all suggesting that everyone should stop drinking for the reasons that I have outlined but this is why *I* have decided to stop. I need to learn to appreciate the weekend without using alcohol. I need to learn how to have conversations after
5pm on a Friday without the use of a bottle of wine or a cigarette as an excuse to socialise.

I’m 27 and I don’t want to die from alcohol poisoning, liver failure or heart disease. And neither should you.

To My Friend – Naomi Long

I got involved in local politics just after the General Election in 2010. I watched as the political landscape changed dramatically with the Lib Dems walking into Downing Street with David Cameron and the Conservatives. I also watched with astonishment as Alliance Party deputy leader Cllr Naomi Long MLA bounced from coming in third place to unseating DUP leader Peter Robinson in Belfast East. The idea that one person could defy the odds, against every possible prediction, poll, pundit and probability and make a difference inspired me to want to do the same.

It made me want to do better for my city, for my community and for my country. At the time I was so inspired but also so intimidated by the sheer size of mainstream party politics that I did not join the Alliance Party and in June 2010 I submitted my membership form to the Green Party and for two years I cut my teeth devloping policy and campaigning for social justice within the small yet nimble environmentalist party. I had the pleasure of working with some incredibly passionate activists like Ross Brown, Claire Bailey and Steven Agnew but as time went on I knew that my heart and my head lay elsewhere.

I could not ignore the positive impact that Naomi was having in my own constituency as my MP. Standing up for the vulnerable, opposing draconian Lib/Con cuts to public spending, welfare and a strong track record on human rights, religious freedom, LGBT advocacy, carers, young people and a charismatic and warm character that was unlike any of the dull, grey men that I had met before. Sometime around late 2011, possibly early 2012 I became a volunteer with Belfast YMCA and became close friends and colleagues with a young woman by the name of Sian O’Neill. Through the dedication and passion that Sian exuded in her work with young people and by seeing the impact that working with people like Chris Lyttle and Naomi Long was having on her I knew I was missing out on something amazing. Naomi agreed to host our youth group on a visit to Westminster and it was around the same time that I took the plunge and joined the Alliance Party.

I immediately became involved with the local association and I can still remember how nervous I was as I spoke in front of Naomi and the local East Belfast Alliance team for the first time. A lot has changed since then and I am confident that Naomi can attest to just how hard it has become to shut me up. But when you feel passionately about something how can you keep quiet? I learned that from her.

I had the honour of being selected as one of two candidates for the DEA of Castlereagh East on the new Lisburn/Castlereagh super council along with Alliance stalwart Cllr Tim Morrow. I knew that if I wanted to make things better then it was time to pony up the dough and take a chance, put my neck on the line and #StepForward (see what I did there?). The campaign was exhausting, tiring and at times it felt as though it would be easier to throw in the towel and give into defeat weeks before polling day but I knew that if Naomi could keep working through the intimidation and threats of the flag protests, Loyalist paramilitaries and the nasty, bully boy tactics of Unionist politicians then who the hell was I to give up?

We have had our disagreements, we have had our victories and we have had laughter over the last three years but I can’t thank Naomi, her husband Michael and the Alliance family in East Belfast for the support, be that emotional, personal, professional or political, during some of the toughest days I have faced as a human being. I can’t thank Naomi enough for her good wishes, her kind words and for coming out in the pissing rain on a cold day in April to knock doors for me in Ballybeen estate whilst I was handling a full time job, a full time election campaign and looking after my father who was gravely ill. I want to thank her on behalf of my family and my community for the work she has done for us since 2010, standing up for us when we needed someone to stand up for us. Resolute, dignified, brave.

Yes, that’s the word I would use to describe Naomi if anyone would ask – brave.

I have had the pleasure and the privilege of being involved with perhaps the most ambitious and well oiled campaign this country has ever seen. I am immensely proud of the team of staff – Sian, Sam, Nuala, Sharon, Ben – all of the office staff at HQ, that of Chris Lyttle and Judith Cochrane and the dozens of volunteers who day after day spurred each other on to knock each door, walk every street and shake every hand to deliver on a future that the people of East Belfast deserved but did not hold. A special thanks should also be given to David and his wife Anne for their leadership, support and courage. We can hold our heads high for a dignified, honest and heartfelt campaign the likes of which has never been seen before.

Naomi you are my mentor and colleague, a constant inspiration to myself and many thousands of others both in East Belfast and far beyond. I have never met a woman of such character, grace and strength even when faced with impossible odds, a sustained campaign of harassment, abuse and political misrepresentation. There are so many things I want to thank Naomi for, but most importantly I want to thank you for being my friend. I look forward to seeing how you will continue to propel us forwards and I am confident that whilst this is only a temporary setback for Northern Ireland, the brightest days are yet to come.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead


Big House Unionism Is Not Loyalism

I will probably court a bit of controversy with this piece but I need to make a few things clear first. I wouldn’t declare myself a Loyalist in the same sense of the word as Billy Hutchinson or Winkie Irvine but it’s definitely in my blood, it formed the backbone of my upbringing and cultural identity and I have my sympathies and common heritage with Loyalism. I go to the Orange parades on the 12th July, I observe Remembrance Day, I go to the bonfires on the 11th night. I have my differences of opinion from many Loyalists on issues around parades, flags and paramilitarism and I have addressed those when I have been asked about them but I am a working class Protestant from East Belfast with family members serving in the security forces, Orange Order and Unionist organisations. Loyalism and its many facets has never been far from my own identity. Does that mean I support the Union

So why join Alliance and not the PUP? I’ll be completely honest, when Ieft the Greens in 2012 I seriously considered my options as to what party I wanted to get involved in. I had a real thirst for community engagement and politics and I had no intention of ending it 3 years ago. Both the PUP and Alliance crossed my mind but, amongst other things, I could not reconcile being a member of the Progressive Unionists whilst they still retained links with the UVF. I am a man of non violence and unashamedly so, the PUP to me were a political wing of Loyalist paramilitaries and I didn’t want to be a part of that. I however felt more inclined to support their policies and their ethos of community building, representing working class people and their left-leaning stance on issues such as welfare reform, community project funding etc but I knew that identity, whilst important to me, was never the most important thing to me.

I believe in a bigger picture of working towards what’s best for the country as a whole whilst putting your own ambitions and aspirations to one side. To me that doesn’t include working for one community or another, and too long have I felt that this city is a city of four districts when it should be, and should always have been, a city of equals under one banner. 06c2628072e411e2ad1922000a1cbd31_7 Yes, the principles of Loyalism support this view as well (equal citizenship, pluralism over religious dominance, respect for democratic pursuit of constitutional change, a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, active citizenship, equal access in a multi-faith, multi-cultural society, rights for all regardless of sexual orientation, religion, disability etc) but the principles of Big House Unionism do not. How many of the things I have just mentioned are in fact actively opposed by the DUP? Or to a lesser extent the UUP? Most if not all of them. The DUP opposes equal rights for LGBT citizens in NI, it has opposed a Bill of Rights, it has aggressively implemented welfare reform,  it has insisted on the dominance of Christianity within its political ideology, it has expressed opposition to a multi-faith, multi-cultural society, it has spent vast sums of public money on private vendettas against LGBT people, it has used the Union and the ridiculous insinuation that its end is imminent as a weapon to stoke tension and fear. It has used the Union flag, my flag, to scare people into believing their identity and culture is about to be taken from them.

My conclusion? The DUP purports to represent working class Protestants and bases itself in the homes of ordinary working class Loyalists but it is not a party for Loyalists. I have lived in East Belfast all my life, we have had 30+ years of DUP dominance and the only thing we have to show for it is a struggling local economy, deprived communities, educational underachievement, political stagnation, shortage of housing, basic amenities and a crumbling civic infrastructure. The DUP are not the party of the working class and never will be. They may have Councillors that come from the same community that I did and that’s all well and good but until their leadership can grasp the message that they are completely out of touch with these communities then they will continue to drift away from political engagement altogether. But perhaps that’s what they want? Keep the malaise up and the hope down. It doesn’t benefit the DUP leadership to have an informed, confident, secure and prosperous electorate in East Belfast or anywhere else.

They thrive on the politics of fear, of zero sum identity charades around flags, parades, the past etc. I have seen next to no policies of the DUP or even the UUP to encourage economic, educational and social prosperity in working class communities. As someone who has been unemployed, raised by parents who depended on benefits to survive and a decent grasp of what my community needs I don’t see it within the structures or blue sky thinking of Big House Unionism at all. They are sheep in Loyalists’ clothing and people will see right through that.

Will I Make It Home Tonight?

That is the thought that crosses the mind of every single gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans person each time they open the door to the night and look at the waiting taxi. That fleeting and sometimes not so fleeting thought that runs across your train of thought and sends an icy feeling roiling in your gut for a split second: “Am I going to get bashed tonight? Do I give myself away? Am I going to be murdered tonight because I’m queer?”

People will argue with me that this is an overreaction or that not all LGBT think this but I’m telling you that you do. It’s probably not even a conscious thing but it’s why you don’t hold your girlfriend’s hand when you’re walking through thr shopping centre or why you don’t go and talk to that cute guy at the deli counter or why you’re not going to wear that t-shirt on casual Friday in case it draws the wrong sort of attention.

The thought that just because we are LGBT we may draw the attention of men of violence and invite that damage onto ourselves is one even the most confident militant queer contemplates each time they walk out the door. Even in the areas near the gay bars in Belfast I am still cautious about who I am with, where I am going and who is watching.  Even with guys that I am meeting with or that I have just met (I don’t know if the same applies to straight guys but I doubt it) and every time I meet a guy at a bar or when I hear about friends who have met a guy on Grindr for a once off I think “What if they had hurt you? What if that was a trap? What if they were setting you up?”

It’s a horrendous feeling and I am glad that Russel T Davies brought it up (even in such brutal fashion) on the last episode of Cucumber. It doesn’t matter how long ago it was that you came out or how comfortable you are with being gay there will always be that subtle and sinister and unwelcome Homophobia that dances along your train of thought for a moment or more and asks “Will I make it home tonight?”

That is the world we live in as openly LGBT people.  We owe it to ourselves to stop living like that.

All The Times The DUP Stood Up For The Gays


The DUP’s Paul Givan claimed on the Nolan Show last week that the DUP aren’t against gay people. Let’s take a look back at all the times the DUP has stood up for the rights of LGBT people in Northern Ireland.

1977 – MP Rev Ian Paisley launches the ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ campaign in an effort to retain the ban on homosexuality in Northern Ireland.

1982 – DUP submits a response to the NI Office in respect of the proposed decriminalisation of homosexuality, claiming that The effect of the law as a restraint on bestiality, incest and rape will be further reduced.” and goes on to say the change will lead to “inevitable demands for a further lowering”, giving “impetus to the paedophile movement which is rampant within the homosexual movement today”.

22nd June 1998 – DUP MPs vote against the Government to lower the age of consent for gay sex from 18 to 16.

10th Feb 2000 – DUP MPs vote again to reject the Sexual Offences Bill to lower the age of consent for gay sex.

24th Oct 2001 – DUP MPs vote against a motion to bring forward a gender neutral Civil Registration Bill.

4th Nov 2002 – DUP MPs vote against an amendment to the Adoption & Children Bill to allow unmarried straight and gay couples to adopt children.

23rd Feb 2004 – DUP MPs vote against the second reading of the Gender Recognition Bill.

25th May 2004 – DUP MPs vote against the third reading of the Gender Recognition Bill.

12th Oct 2004 – DUP MPs vote against the second reading of the Civil Partnerships Bill

9th Nov 2004 – DUP MPs vote in favour of a wrecking motion to enable siblings to become Civil Partners under proposed legislation. They later vote against the third reading of the Civil Partnerships Bill.

18th Nov 2005 – Ballymena DUP Cllr Maurice Mills claims that gay people are to blame for Hurricane Katrina.

9th Jan 2007 – DUP’s Lord Morrow proposes a motion to defeat the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland).

21st March 2007 – DUP MPs vote against a Government Bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

21st Jan 2008 – DUP Peers vote to prevent a clause demanding the need for a ‘father’ from being removed in the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Bill. If this clause had remained then lesbian couples would have been unable to access IVF treatment.

20th Feb 2008 – DUP Culture Minister Edwin Poots MLA calls the establishment of a gay rugby team in Belfast a form of ‘apartheid’.

20th May 2008 – DUP MPs vote against Government proposals to allow single mothers and lesbian couples access to IVF treatment – twice.

June 2008 – DUP MP & MLA Iris Robinson claims that homosexuality can be ‘cured’.

21st July 2008 – DUP MP & MLA Iris Robinson claims that homosexuality is ‘viler’ than child abuse in a speech to Parliament.

26th July 2011 – DUP MLA Jim Wells calls Belfast Pride ‘repugnant’.

2nd August 2012 – Lord Mayor of Belfast, the DUP Cllr Gavin Robinson, stands by his party’s opposition to gay rights at a panel debate during the Belfast Pride festival.

25th August 2012 – Magherafelt District DUP Cllr Paul McClean calls for homosexuality to be made illegal in Northern Ireland.

1st October 2012 – DUP MLAs block a motion brought forward to facilitate marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

25th October 2013 – DUP MLA Tom Buchanan tells school children attending a public event that homosexuality is an ‘abomination’.

October 2012 – DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots MLA lodges an appeal against the NI High Court Ruling overturning the ban on gay couples being allowed to adopt.

5th Feb 2013 – DUP MPs vote against the second reading of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill and all technical motions to facilitate the passing of the Bill.

29th April 2013 – DUP MLAs block a second motion brought forward to facilitate marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

2st May 2013 – DUP MPs vote against the third reading of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill.

11th Oct 2013 – Despite an NI High Court ruling, DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots MLA refuses to lift the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.

13th Nov 2013 – DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots MLA claims in the NI Assembly that the ‘natural order’ is for a child to be raised by a mother and father.

5th March 2014 (Busy day for the DUP)  – DUP MPs vote against Government proposals to allow same-sex marriages to be annulled or for same-sex spouses to divorce. They also vote against plans to allow consenting places of worship being able to register and de-register their property as venues in which to conduct same-sex weddings. On the same day they vote against plans to allow the registration of Armed Forces chapels as venues in which to conduct same-sex weddings. That same day they vote against plans to allow same-sex weddings for British citizens to be conducted in UK Consulates in foreign nations, to allow same-sex marriages from England and Wales be recognised as Civil Partnerships in Scotland and against the right of UK Armed Forces personnel entering into a same-sex marriage whilst serving overseas. On a bit of a roll that day, weren’t they?

29th April 2014 – DUP MLAs block a third motion brought forward to facilitate marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

8th December 2014 – DUP MLA Paul Givan publishes a Bill (nicknamed the Conscience Clause) designed to allow religious people an opt out from equality legislation when providing goods and services to gay couples.

21st Jan 2015 – Health Minister Jim Wells MLA of the DUP announces that he will maintain the present ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

23rd April 2015 – During a hustings event in South Down, DUP Health Minister Jim Wells claimed “You don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship. That the child is far more likely to be abused and neglected.” (This later led to his resignation as Health Minister 3 days later.)

25th April 2015 – Whilst canvassing in Rathfriland, DUP MLA Jim Wells was allegedly critical of the ‘lifestyle’ of a lesbian couple leading to 3 complaints about the incident to the Police.

27th April 2015 – The DUP use a Petition of Concern to block a motion calling for equal marriage in the NI Assembly.

28th April 2015 – A DUP Canvasser in East Antrim allegedly told a lesbian constituent “Sorry to hear you’re gay” leading to complaints on social media.

28th April 2015 –  DUP Cllr Paul McLean called for homosexuality to be made illegal. 

30th April 2015 – DUP Leader and First Minister of NI claims that Cllr McLean is ‘entitled to his views’ and that if homosexuality was illegal he hopes people ‘would obey that law’. 

30th April 2015 – MLA and Westminster candidate Jonathan Bell sets out his opposition to same-sex marriage and to 3-person marriage which he dubs ‘Thruples’ during a hustings debate in South Belfast.

You’re Right, It’s Not Natural

I want to dedicate this post to Leelah Alcorn.

I’m a little angry and here’s why: In 2014 and every year before that I have read story after story about young LGBT people taking their own lives, being locked up, turned out onto the streets and made homeless, fired from their jobs, being hospitalised, murdered.

I’m tired of the attitudes that dominate and facilitate the treatment of LGBT people, (people like me, my friends, my family) as second class, as lesser than and not valued or worthy as those who are not. Those that are ‘normal’.

How can you call yourself a Christian and stand over the countless overdoses, hangings and suicides that have smothered the flickering flames of so many beautiful young lives and taken them from us too soon? Taken them from themselves too soon? How can you call yourself a Christian and look away as bright sparks are bullied into the darkness by their own families, their own parents, family,  schools? Their churches?

They didn’t choose this life. We didn’t choose this life. How dare you stamp on the dreams and aspirations of young kids who haven’t yet had the opportunity that you had to flourish and sparkle. You fail those who preach peace, love and understanding when you walk past those kids who have to worry about where they’ll find their next bed, their next meal, their next source of income or simply the best place to get out of the rain when the sun sets.

I’m sick and furious when I hear those who stand behind a pulpit or the good book tell us that being LGBT isn’t natural. You preach prejudice and derision to impressionable young minds and then lament at their graveside like the hypocrites you are. They left us, too broken hearted at their wings being clipped before they had a chance to soar.

Every time you tell a young Trans girl that she isn’t real, that she isn’t natural or that she’s going to Hell you better hold your tongue and hold back your false indignation or sorrow the next time a girl like her takes her own life. You are as much to blame as the others who forced her into that corner and stripped her of her right to be free, to be happy and most importantly to feel safe and loved.

In 2015 I don’t want to read another headline, hear another story or find another article about a friend or some kid in some far away place or somewhere close that couldn’t bear to face the world because of who they are. Don’t be your child’s first bully. Think before you speak. Even if you don’t understand, reach out your hand and help them if they ask for it. You might just be saving a life.
Please if you need to speak to anyone or if you know someone who does please get in touch with Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.