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Marriage Equality — Distracting our attention February 6, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Crazed nonsense..., Human Rights, Inequality, Irish Politics, LGBT.

Did you see what David Quinn and Senator Rónán Mullen did there?

They’re like bad magicians, trying to distract the audience — in their case from Panti’s critique on RTÉ (transcript here; 3-minute video here) of the ethos of their case against lifting the ban on same-sex marriage.

David Quinn used his column in the Irish Independent on 31 January to ask if we can have a respectful debate on same-sex marriage. He opened his column with extracts from four emails he has received that contained very nasty suggestions about what the sender wanted him to do or to happen to him.

Then on Wednesday of this week, Senator Mullen asked in the Seanad if GLEN (the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network) would disassociate itself from Panti’s statement on RTÉ. (Broadsheet’s 50-second video clip of Senator Mullen’s contribution is here.)

While not explicitly naming David Quinn or his Iona colleagues, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte was clearly thinking of them when he said, also on 31 January, that those who enter the arena of public debate cannot expect that Queensbury Rules will always apply. Well, the column by David Quinn and speech by Senator Mullen demonstrate they they, at least, do not in fact play by Queensbury Rules.

Private emails with nasty and unpleasant messages are not part of the debate. Nobody is swayed by them. They are, simply, nasty and unpleasant emails to you from individuals who are angry or sad, or both [1]. Putting them in the public domain makes them part of a debate, but not the debate — on whether the ban on same-sex marriage should be lifted.

GLEN, whom Senator Mullen acknowledged is respectful, did not and does not put into the public domain the nasty emails and letters it receives. Neither does Marriage Equality, and neither does BeLonG To, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth service.

There can be times and ways to draw attention to the nasty underside of — to use Minister Rabbitte’s phrase — entering the arena. But when public opinion has lit up in rage that you have received compensation because a drag queen (oh, the irony — a drag queen!) pulls you up on the basic value you espouse in the actual debate, bringing up the work of sad individuals who oppose you serves to distract.

Sadly, the technique adopted by David Quinn and Senator Mullen is not simply an attempt to distract. It is also distinctly cynical and unpleasant: it attempts bring guilt by association to the case for lifting the ban on same-sex marriage.


[1] If emails go beyond being unpleasant to being genuinely threatening, then the place to bring them is the Gardaí, but in fairness, David Quinn did not suggest any sense of threat to his safety, so it is reasonable to assume that is not relevant to this discussion.


1. doctorfive - February 6, 2014

good to see the crazed nonsense tag getting a run out


2. WorldbyStorm - February 6, 2014

+1 to you both.


3. Tomboktu - February 6, 2014

Senator Jim Walsh was the one whose contribution best suits the description ‘crazed nonesense’. The official transcript does him a service by re-presenting his contribution in a much saner way:

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh I ask the Leader if he could arrange for the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to come to the House to clarify his comments that debate can be robust, heated, personal and sometimes even hostile if one enters the public arena. He said that one cannot expect that the Queensberry rules will apply. Unfortunately, those comments were made last Friday when on the same day in a national newspaper, David Quinn revealed some of the e-mails he has received. One example reads: “If you’re reading this, kill yourself. End your shitty existence on this planet and let humankind move on from your bigoted, homophobic and sexist bullshit (Official transcript here)

The video shows he actually didn’t speak either of the ‘shit’ words and spelt them into the record.


4. doctorfive - February 7, 2014

Today’s debate


5. EamonnCork - February 7, 2014

A couple of things account for this classic piece of bullshit from Mullen and Quinn.
1. Nobody likes to think of themselves as a bully. But the traditional balance of power between straight and gay people is overwhelmingly tilted towards the former. There’s no thing as ‘straight bashing’ and no examples of homosexual governments throwing heterosexuals into concentration camps, jailing them and forcing them to undergo medical treatment. Nothing like that has ever happened. But these days even bigots have to pretend that their argument is balanced. So we get Quinn and Mullen pretending that there’s some kind of sinister gay lobby out there putting them in fear of their lives. Personally I think the gays were incensed by the fact that Mullen epitomises macho heterosexuality and is a man visibly oozing testosterone, a kind of cross between Di Caprio in Wolf of Wall Street and Benny Hill.
2. It’s obvious that most people who oppose gay marriage do so because of an uneasiness with, if not a hatred of, homosexuality. But RTE’s capitulation has to a certain degree prevented this simple fact being stated in public debate. And, having won their money, Iona are now caught in a bit of a bind in that their traditional arguments can’t really be made. The American sites they link to, which are recommended by Quinn and underpin his argument, are explicit about their belief that homosexuality itself is damaging to society and that one of the big arguments against gay marriage is that it will make ‘normal’ people think homosexuality is somehow alright. That’s the key argument from that side of the house. But it can’t be spelt out like that in Ireland. So the argument, as repeated by the brain donors on newspaper comment sections, is that gay marriage should be voted down because ‘that crowd want their own way’ or ‘gays think they’re great’ or various resentment based arguments. A dislike of ‘nice people’ comes in there too. Nobody’s making positive arguments in favour of a no vote, it’s all about sending a message to that gang.
3. Anyone who takes a public stand on anything gets E-mails like that. By and large you don’t presume it means you’ve been marked for death. ‘End your shitty existence’ is not a nice thing to say to anyone but it’s hardly much more serious than someone shouting ‘fuck off and die’ in an argument. I’ve had worse.
4. It’s like the old story about the missionary who believes his servant has stolen something and commences to flog him while administering a sermon on the wrongness of theft. The servant says, “Father, if you’re going to flog, flog and if you’re going to preach, preach. But you can’t flog and preach. Iona and Waters are trying to have it both ways, getting the money and attacking free speech while whinging about how bad getting the money makes them feel and asking for a debate on their terms, where no-one agrees them.
5. It’s the oldest journalistic convention in the book that journalists don’t sue each other. I don’t think any of the people involved should be given a media platform from now on, not because I disagree with their views but because it’s ludicrous to have people who run for the libel lawyers at the drop of a hat engaging in public debate. Quinn was on the telly again last night. What’s the point? Debate with him is stymied by the fact that the threat of a writ is now foremost in the mind of every broadcaster dealing with him and his cohorts. So every time they appear there should at least be a public health warning.
6. Anyone worried that Gilmore is going to extract some cred from this issue, don’t worry. He already looks his usual slimy self after saying that gay organisations want him to march in the Patricks Day Parade. Turns out that they don’t and he was probably throwing that one out off the top of his head. It might be ‘the human rights issue of our generation’ but it’s not worth missing out on a weekend in New York for. The Irish Labour Party is a wonder.


6. EamonnCork - February 7, 2014

It’s also rather amusing to see right wingers who’d be full of muscular talk about Victimhood when it comes to anti-bullying campaigns in schools or legislation against hate speech suddenly becoming so sensitive. All this whinging and crying and running away because someone calls you names, is that not how the other side are supposed to act? I suppose we should thank them for overturning centuries of stereotypes and presenting us with The Scary Tough Gay.


Michael Carley - February 7, 2014

It’s a version of what, in a different context, used to be called `superpower self pity’.


7. Lovie - May 13, 2014

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