Friday 28 October 2016

If it wasn't a matter of conscience I'd vote No - just to annoy the chattering classes

Published 21/04/2015 | 02:30

Breda O'Brien, a 'convenient hate figure' for people who like to call themselves 'liberal' but are anything but
Breda O'Brien, a 'convenient hate figure' for people who like to call themselves 'liberal' but are anything but

God, aren't you just sick of it by now?

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I'm referring, of course, to the upcoming marriage equality referendum on May 22. Yes, there are another four weeks to go in a debate which feels like it has been dragging on for the last several decades.

There will be nationwide relief on May 23, although that's because all but the most committed activists on either side have reached Peak Gay Marriage. In other words, even those of us who will vote 'Yes' have grown weary of being barracked and lectured by the 'Yes' side, who seem determined to demonise anyone who disagrees with them.

The latest target of their ire is the conservative religious activist Breda O'Brien, who came out with some typically ridiculous stuff in a 'Sunday Independent' interview the other day. For those who of you managed to avoid the micro-controversy, O'Brien argues that gay sex is bad because sex should be about procreation and, for obvious reasons, that doesn't apply to same-sex relationships.

I think that's daft. You might think it's daft. But it's what Catholics believe. Or, at any rate, it's what they're meant to believe. But you wouldn't have know that from the tsunami of Twitter fury which came thick and fast - the emphasis on the former.

O'Brien is a convenient hate figure for the people who like to call themselves 'liberal' but are anything but. She's a staunch Catholic who happens to hold extremely traditional views on matters of private morality; views which are now only shared by a small minority of people in this country.

So, when O'Brien says things like: "Gays should abstain from sex, like all unmarried couples", you'd hope people would read her remarks, roll their eyes, then move on to something which actually has some relevance in the real world.

Instead, the usual idiots were quick to whip themselves up into a lather of luxurious outrage to the extent that any casual observer would assume she is the biggest threat to gay people since HIV, rather than being a conservative comedy cliche come to life.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, common sense left the building a long time ago when it comes to this increasingly febrile debate. After all, what did people think she was going to say?

That, on mature reflection, the 'Yes' side was correct and could she buy a season ticket to bingo in The George?

She simply believes what Catholics are supposed to believe, which is one of the many, many reasons I'm not a Catholic. The vital principle of live-and-let-live has been replaced in recent years by a nauseating liberal orthodoxy which insists that anyone who dissents isn't just wrong, they must be painted as the enemy and destroyed.

When did liberals stop being the good guys? When did those who shriek the loudest about tolerance become the ones who can't bear to tolerate any deviation from the party line?

I'll be voting 'Yes' - but not because I think this is the greatest human rights issue of our times. It's not and if you think it is, you're obviously mad or living in a bubble.

I'm voting 'Yes' because it's none of my business what consenting adults get up to and, as long as they're not bothering anyone else, they should be allowed to do what they want.

But I have to admit, the 'Yes' side have done more to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory than any campaign, for any cause, in any country, than I can remember.

There will be people who vote 'No' because they have genuine, legitimate Constitutional questions, not because they hate gay people. There will be people who vote 'No' because it breaches their religious beliefs and, yes, there will be people who vote 'No' because they are simply bigots.

But not every 'No' voter is a homophobic bigot and the prissy, sanctimonious, self-righteous bilge which is spewed on a daily basis by 'Yes' campaigners is as counter-productive as it is irksome.

We seem to be importing the obnoxious American mutation known as the 'social justice warrior' who loudly proclaims that anyone who disagrees with them is a monster as they waste their time looking to be outraged over the most trivial issues. How else can you explain the hatred directed towards a Christian bakery in Norn Iron because they didn't want to bake a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan?

Gay people, obviously, don't agree with the stance of Ashers bakery. As it happens, neither do I. But if that's how they want to conduct their business, that's, well, that's their business and is of no concern to nobody else.

If the 'Yes' campaign had simply focused on emphasising the principle of equality, Team No would have eventually collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions.

Instead, they have become so shrill and hysterical and, worst of all, illogical, that now even I feel a little bit sorry for Breda O'Brien.

Roll on May 23, if only for a bit of peace and quiet.

Irish Independent

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