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A lived reality… June 17, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

There’s an odd synchronicity between the news of homophobic acts in Ireland this last week or two – graffiti painted close to Panti Bar and the repeated removal of LGBTQ+ flags in Waterford, and the news that Hungary has passed a law ‘banning the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality to minors’ in what is clearly an attack on LGBTQ+ rights. There’s a lot there to unpack – not least the fact that media coverage and commentary has been, as far as can be seen, entirely and correctly appalled by the former events, and indeed in fairness by the latter too. Indeed it is striking to see how seriously the former is taken in this state at all levels. It seems unfeasible that – given the widespread support for marriage equality – such acts would be tolerated, let alone the sort of dynamics apparent in Hungary.

That said I thought both the managing editor of GCN Lisa Connell on RTÉ radio and Panti Bliss pointed to the importance of Pride at this point in time and indeed they both noted that the lack of societal profile – due obviously the pandemic might have played a part. Connell noted:

“The graffiti beside Pantibar this morning and the destruction of flags in Waterford in the past week underscore the lived reality that LGBTQ+ folk know all too well; homophobia and transphobia are alive and well in Irish society. It is noteworthy that in a month where queer visibility is celebrated and amplified, we see these anti-LGBTQ+ displays of bigotry and intimidation. These act as a timely reminder of why we must loudly and proudly celebrate Pride.”

Or as Panti herself said:

“When Pride comes around, there’s always a big discussion whether it should be a party and a celebration or a protest.

“I think it needs to be both: I think we can celebrate how far we’ve come, but we also have work yet to be done”.

But there’s another angle – Ireland was regarded as a particularly traditional society for a considerable length of time. It’s far too easy to mesh the rural and concepts of same into that or to argue that that engendered or extended social conservatism, but it is fair to say that those promoting such social conservatism sought to play on those concepts as legitimations of their stance. But the referendums of this last decade were revelatory in terms of demonstrating that in truth attitudes across the society were broadly similar in relation to choice, marriage equality and other issues. In other words to take but one example the supposed rural/urban divide or even in a sense the very idea of a socially conservative majority was quite inaccurate in terms of understanding the society. Now I wouldn’t seek to go too far with this thesis. Social conservatism isn’t restricted to the larger issues – it functions as an adjunct to class, racial and other aspects within a society. But all this suggests that those in Hungary (and other places) who seek to align their approaches with such legitimations may not find there is quite the traction they have expected particularly across the long term. Oddly this points to a slightly different discussion about the nature of liberalism and illiberalism. Viktor Orbán speaks of the latter as his guiding principle, but – to slightly misapply those terms, or reposition them from the specific meaning Orbán uses – it sometimes strikes me that it’s not so much that Ireland is particularly liberal, though it is in certain aspects, but that the illiberalism of some (though there’s a further minority who are illiberal who are somewhat different in their approach) is such that it is open to a live and let live approach and that that was expressed perhaps in part at the referendums. I don’t believe that will flip – and tellingly nor do those who, for example, are anti-choice. But it does show again just how complex the dynamics are in this. And how somehow, remarkably, in a socially conservative society, or one that in many respects has been profoundly socially conservative, it was possible to reach out and reach socially progressive goals. 

But again, this is something that requires continual vigilance and however heartening the response to these acts in Dublin and Waterford there’s no questioning that the lived reality of many LGTBQ+ people is far from optimal with smaller acts of prejudice evident across the society.  And perhaps there’s lessons too in that lived reality and experience for the left more broadly in that those rights which most on the left would consider fundamental to a left project point to the way in which other rights also fundamental to a left project that are fought for must also be defended.



1. Tomboktu - June 18, 2021

Moninne Griffith, Director of BeLonG To Youth Services, referred to the buying of the pride flags in Waterford as extremism. She was on Morning Ireland.

I wonder how the Iona columnists will respond to that.

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