Monday 26 September 2016

The Queen of Ireland's rousing Christmas Message - 'If we feel strongly enough, and work together, we can achieve incredible things'

Published 25/12/2015 | 14:10

Queen of Ireland Panti goes head-to-head with the Queen of England for a special Christmas message on Christmas Day. Queen of Irelands Christmas Message airs at 3pm on Christmas Day, on TV3
Queen of Ireland Panti goes head-to-head with the Queen of England for a special Christmas message on Christmas Day. Queen of Irelands Christmas Message airs at 3pm on Christmas Day, on TV3
Queen of Ireland Panti goes head-to-head with the Queen of England for a special Christmas message on Christmas Day. Queen of Irelands Christmas Message airs at 3pm on Christmas Day, on TV3
Queen of Ireland Panti goes head-to-head with the Queen of England for a special Christmas message on Christmas Day. Queen of Irelands Christmas Message airs at 3pm on Christmas Day, on TV3
Queen of Ireland Panti goes head-to-head with the Queen of England for a special Christmas message on Christmas Day. Queen of Irelands Christmas Message airs at 3pm on Christmas Day, on TV3
Queen of Ireland Panti goes head-to-head with the Queen of England for a special Christmas message on Christmas Day. Queen of Irelands Christmas Message airs at 3pm on Christmas Day, on TV3
Queen of Ireland Panti goes head-to-head with the Queen of England for a special Christmas message on Christmas Day. Queen of Irelands Christmas Message airs at 3pm on Christmas Day, on TV3
Queen of Ireland Panti goes head-to-head with the Queen of England for a special Christmas message on Christmas Day. Queen of Irelands Christmas Message airs at 3pm on Christmas Day, on TV3
Queen of Ireland Panti goes head-to-head with the Queen of England for a special Christmas message on Christmas Day. Queen of Irelands Christmas Message airs at 3pm on Christmas Day, on TV3

The Queen of Ireland, Panti Bliss, has delivered a rousing alternative Christmas Day Message to rival the Queen of England's annual message.

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Panti's ten minute speech called on the nation to extend the impulse for change which preceded the Yes vote in the marriage referendum to other segments of society which require support.

Speaking about the referendum in May this year, Panti said, "For some of us, me included, we were being asked to finally decide, forty years after a few brave men and women first asked, whether or not LGBT people are full and equal members of this society and deserving of the same respect as everyone else.

"But others didn't see it that way. They felt we were being asked to change a fundamental social institution that they cherish and admire, and they worried that changing it might weaken or even ruin it."

She added, "And that's ok. You know, on the day of the referendum result, a mischievous English journalist asked me in front of the world's media at Dublin Castle, whether I could "forgive" the people who voted No, and my answer today is the same as it was then. I've nothing to forgive them for.

"For the most part, the people who voted No did so out of genuinely held concerns, but I hope, and believe, that in time they'll come to realise their concerns were unfounded and come to agree with the rest of us that May 22nd was indeed a good day for Ireland. If they haven't already. I hope so anyway."

Panti called on the people of Ireland to "stop fearing change" and to have the courage to change the things we don't do so well.

She said, "LGBT people aren’t the only ones for whom we have failed to live up to the promise of cherishing all the children of the nation equally."

She referenced homeless people living on the streets and B&Bs, Travelers in sub-standard halting sites, elderly people in hospital corridors, peopel with disabilities and mental illness, and women as people who often do not feel cherished by this country.

"The kind of change we need to make to live up to the promise to cherish all the children of the nation equally may seem daunting, but if May 22nd taught us anything, it’s that if we feel strongly enough about something, and if we work together, we can achieve incredible things," she said. "We can move mountains."

 

Read the full transcript of Panti's message:

 

Hello.

Time passes, and things change.

It's one of the few things in life that we can be sure of. Night follows day, rain falls, the tide ebbs, drunk texting is a mistake… and things change. Nothing is immutable, forever unchanging - with the possible exception of Cher.

Of course change can be uncomfortable, even scary, but we can’t stop it happening - it is as inevitable as a TD at a funeral. We can’t freeze the world in one moment in time, as much as we might sometimes like to.

But what we can do is fear change, or embrace it.

The young of course are more predisposed to embrace change. When we’re young we want time to speed up. We want to be older, we want to be able to go to the pub, we want our beard to come in or our boobs to develop. The young are impatient for change - they want to change the whole world! But as we get older and more set in our ways, we're more inclined to wish time would slow down, and we can become more wary of change. I suppose it's only natural. Time becomes the enemy, marking its victorious passage on our bodies with unwelcome commemorations. Sometimes it can feel as if the whole world is changing, and changing too fast!  It can feel like you might wake up tomorrow and no longer recognise the world. And that can be scary.

Back in May, Ireland was asked to make a change. In some ways it wasn't a big change - in a way, we were just asked to let more people get married if they wanted to. But to some people, on both sides of the question, it was huge.

For some of us, me included, we were being asked to finally decide, forty years after a few brave men and women first asked, whether or not LGBT people are full and equal members of this society and deserving of the same respect as everyone else.

But others didn't see it that way. They felt we were being asked to change a fundamental social institution that they cherish and admire, and they worried that changing it might weaken or even ruin it.

And that's ok. You know, on the day of the referendum result, a mischievous English journalist asked me in front of the world's media at Dublin Castle, whether I could "forgive" the people who voted No, and my answer today is the same as it was then. I've nothing to forgive them for. For the most part, the people who voted No did so out of genuinely held concerns, but I hope, and believe, that in time they'll come to realise their concerns were unfounded and come to agree with the rest of us that May 22nd was indeed a good day for Ireland. If they haven't already. I hope so anyway.

Change isn't always easy, but it's absolutely necessary. I don't mean change for changes sake, but there are very few things in life that are perfect or remain fit for purpose over time. (Well, possibly Dolly Parton)

So let's stop fearing change. Let's look at ourselves, at Ireland, with an open mind, and credit ourselves with what we do well, but also have the courage to see what we don't do so well, and then have the courage to change it.

Our constitution promises to cherish all the children of the nation equally, but until May we failed to live up to that promise for gay people. The referendum result felt like an acknowledgement of that failure, and the closest thing to an apology for forcing generations of LGBT Irish people to emigrate, or lead miserable, hidden lives. For people like me, May 22nd felt like a fresh start.

And for that, I’m very grateful.

But LGBT people aren’t the only ones for whom we have failed to live up to the promise of cherishing all the children of the nation equally.

I don’t think the young man settling down to sleep in a doorway tonight feels equally cherished.

I don’t think the mother spending Christmas with her kids in a B&B feels equally cherished.

I don’t think the Travelers spending Christmas on a rat-infested temporary halting site feel equally cherished.

I don’t think the elderly woman on a trolley in a crowded hospital corridor feels equally cherished.

I don’t think people with a disability or struggling with mental health issues, feel equally cherished.

There are times when Irish women don’t feel equally cherished.

The kind of change we need to make to live up to the promise to cherish all the children of the nation equally may seem daunting, but if May 22nd taught us anything, it’s that if we feel strongly enough about something, and if we work together, we can achieve incredible things. We can move mountains.

I mean, if you had told someone twenty years ago that someone like me would get to speak to you in your Christmas living rooms today, they’d have quietly called the doctor!

I don't live in Ireland because I have to. I don’t pretend to live in this elegant residence we've borrowed for the afternoon, because I have to. I live in Ireland because I love it. I love it fiercely. But I wasn't always sure Ireland loved me back.

I am as Irish as it's possible to be. Born in the proud county of Mayo, I'm O'Neill on one side and O'Donnell on the other. I'm as Irish as a Spice Burger, or Sharon Ní Bheolán "and the way she might look at ya". And yet I wasn't always sure that “Irishness" was elastic enough to include someone like me. But I am now. We didn't change the definition of marriage on May 22nd, but we did expand the definition of Irishness to include people like me.

And for that, I'm very grateful. It feels great.

I wish you all a merry Christmas, surrounded, I hope, by cherished loved ones, and wish you all a happy New Year, full of possibilities.

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