News Brendan O’Connor

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Debate that dare not speak its name

Published 02/02/2014 | 02:30

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Pat Rabbitte
Pat Rabbitte

YOU'D be reminded of the kid in Poltergeist. She's sitting in front of the TV, looking into the white noise and the distortion and she senses the presence of the ghosts. Realising that they are back again, she announces: "They're heeeeere!"

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We've all had that sense in the last few weeks. That sense of "Oh God, it's happening again, isn't it?" They're back. And it looks like there could be at least 18 months of it ahead of us.

Once every decade or so, the country likes to get convulsed by a major social issue. Depending on where you are standing, this convulsion is either the pain of the uneasy birth of the 21st Century in Ireland or it's another painful movement in the slide towards a Godless Gomorrah.

On one side, you have a bunch of preening, highly strung queenie types and on the other side you have the gays. And in the middle, you have the rest of us, who care on varying levels, but just wish we could get the latest wrench over quickly without too much ugly quarrelling, bitching and moaning.

Right now, it seems that the majority of the country, up to three-quarters of people, think gays should have the right to be as happy or unhappy as the rest of us. Many straight people, who have come to regard marriage as a duty, rather than a right, are slightly bemused as to why anyone would fight so hard for the right to have their big day. Some embittered types might even think that fighting for the right to get married is like fighting for the right to go to prison.

You'd suspect that most people are at worst not bothered and at best happy to let the gays get married if that will make them feel more equal and less discriminated against.

Others believe that gays being married will destroy marriage for everyone else. Others again think we don't need the gays to destroy the institution of marriage.

What most people are agreed on is that we don't need another one of these vicious episodes where two groups of people who will never agree exercise their irreconcilable differences all over the papers and the airwaves for a year or two.

Pat Rabbitte has already had to step in as referee and remind everyone that the Queensbury Rules may not apply here and that there may be name-calling.

While the liberals and conservatives battle this one out, both claiming the other side is undermining their basic human rights and both offering watertight statistics to back up their opinions, most people will keep secretly worrying about their mortgages, their jobs, their bills, their kids, the flooding and the rugby.

And most normal people will hope too that when all the fighting is over we will in some way live in a more humane society. As to what a more humane society is – well that, apparently, is a matter of opinion.

Irish Independent

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