Saturday 22 October 2016

Life was grim for gay people in the ’50s and ’60s – I was there

Published 21/05/2015 | 02:30

Senator David Norris
Senator David Norris

Over recent weeks, Bruce Arnold has been opposing the Marriage Equality Referendum in print and on broadcast media.

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Despite not being an acknowledged expert in the Irish language and having no legal training, he publicly challenged the Irish wording of the referendum. I decided to ignore his contributions.

However, I was astonished this morning to hear him say on the radio that the grim picture painted of the living conditions of gay people was a fiction.

He indicated that gay people in the 1940s, '50s and '60s were happy, well-adjusted people without a bother in the world, celebrated and loved like the English theatricals Michael MacLiammóir and Hilton Edwards. Indeed I remember RTÉ broadcasting a moving appeal by MacLiammóir for a change in the law shortly before his death. That law, incidentally, was an import to Ireland from Mr Arnold's home country, England.

As someone who lived through that period and founded the first gay organisations, I would like to comment. Gay people of my vintage woke up in their early teens to the appalling prospect of prison, church condemnation and social ostracism for something over which they had no control.

I personally was a witness to gay people being harassed, sacked, beaten, imprisoned and subject to forced ECT, as well as confinement in mental hospitals. I can assure Mr Arnold that these people were far from happy citizens. Naturally, I will be voting Yes.

Senator David Norris


Simplistic views on EU aid

I read Ian O'Doherty's article 'More EU aid to Africa is repeating the same old mistakes' (Irish Independent, May 19) with a degree of anger and disappointment. Not only is it naïve and simplistic - the charge levelled by Mr O'Doherty against others - it is hugely unhelpful and detracts from the role we should be playing in responding to humanitarian crises.

To the simplistic arguments first: the EU response to the crisis in the Mediterranean has been neither rash nor about increasing aid to African governments, as Mr O'Doherty claims. The actions, though late, have focused on strengthening an EU presence in the Mediterranean Sea, fighting traffickers and smugglers, preventing illegal migration flows and increasing internal solidarity and responsibility. Though far more remains to be done, the EU has stepped up its response quite deliberately.

Secondly, what we're seeing in the Mediterranean is part of a wider humanitarian crisis across the region. Since the outbreak of the civil war in Syria four years ago, some four million refugees have fled the country. Some of them are on the boats we see sinking on our TV screens; others are facing more invisible yet equally perilous journeys elsewhere. Recognising this as a humanitarian disaster, our primary focus must be about saving lives. To say we owe these people nothing flies in the face of our humanity.

Thirdly, that aid to Africa is 'flushed away' is a further simplistic assertion that must be quashed. Geographically, the majority of EU aid goes to sub-Saharan Africa and to Europe's neighbours. In the past decade, this has led to almost 14 million pupils having access to primary school, more than 70 million people using clean drinking water, and over 7.5 million births attended by skilled health workers, saving the lives of mothers and babies. It is this type of intelligent investment, delivering long-term development, that will actually start to address the reasons people leave their home countries in such numbers. Rather than dismissing it as a sop to ensure EU leaders feel better about themselves, as Mr O'Doherty claims, we should be looking for increased expenditure addressing poverty's root causes.

Dominic MacSorley

CEO Concern Worldwide


It's your decision - use your vote

I find it very tragic that Ireland is yet again putting itself through a verbal Civil War over a proposed amendment to the Constitution.

It is more than evident that the people have been forced into such a war of words, where truth and fact are often obscured by myth.

Why? Because of the lack of intellect in the Government. A debate that should have been held in the Oireachtas long before any proposed amendment was put to the people.

Far worse than the severe lack of intellect in this Government is the moral cowardice of the legislature as a whole. Which proves yet again, the majority of TDs are there for egoism rather than altruism, because they haven't a bull's notion about "power" or the inherent dangers in the way this Government is mismanaging it.

All I will say on how to vote is, please exercise your vote in whatever way your conscience dictates - it's your decision alone.

Declan Foley

Berwick, Australia


Children and birth mothers

We frequently read about the overwhelming joyful and emotional reunion between a person and his/her long lost mother in cases where the child put up for adoption when very young.

Over the years, the child longed to find their mother and went through long searches trying to make contact. It seems that there is natural instinct to meet the natural biological mother. If the referendum is passed, how will a child, adopted by a gay couple, particularly by a male couple, make contact with its biological mother? There will be a void in its life.

Joe Dowling



Legal opinion is not infallible

The Yes side bolsters its claims by quoting the opinion of the High Court Judge Kevin Cross. Legal opinion is just that - an opinion. How often have we seen High Court judgments overturned by the Supreme Court? The fallibility of judges is well illustrated by the recent landmark Supreme Court judgment on the admissibility of unconstitutionality obtained evidence. In that case there was vehement disagreement amongst the Supreme Court judges themselves (four against three).

Brendan Chapman

Booterstown, Co Dublin


Vote Yes in spirit of Proclamation

Next year, copies of the 1916 Proclamation will be sent to every school in this Republic.

One of the key principles in that Proclamation - and perhaps the most quoted - is the promise to cherish "all the children of the nation equally".

This fundamental promise was echoed and enshrined in Article 40 of the Constitution of Ireland: "all citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law".

On Friday, May 22, we are given a rare opportunity to live up to that promise and that key constitutional principle - to vote in a constitutional referendum to extend the right to marry and to recognise and protect the human dignity and equality of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.

They are our fellow citizens of this Republic, a community which has so often been shamefully treated in the past. As citizens, as a married couple who value marriage, as parents and grandparents, we will be voting Yes on Friday.

John and Julitta Clancy

Batterstown, Co Meath

Irish Independent

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