Monday 24 October 2016

The fight for equality is not finished yet

Published 27/05/2015 | 02:30

Child poverty is an increasing problem in Ireland, but will people fight it like they fought for marriage equality?
Child poverty is an increasing problem in Ireland, but will people fight it like they fought for marriage equality?

Even if you are somewhat circumspect about what sometimes passes for patriotism, the result of the referendum made a feeling of national pride inescapable.

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This is not a victory for politicians, but for grassroots activism and especially for those in the gay community who have fought discrimination for decades. One hopes that it will herald an era where homophobia - which is still a malign presence in society - eventually becomes unacceptable.

However, Ireland has not been suddenly transformed into a utopian country with equality for all. This is not the final piece in the equality jigsaw, rather another important piece. There are many issues in Ireland where people are suffering from economic and social inequality and exclusion.

Child poverty rose from 6pc to 12pc between 2008 and 2013 -and there are now 135,000 children living in poverty. Many people with disabilities have to struggle to get the services required to give them equality. There are still thousands living in debt as a result of the economic collapse and who, over eight years later, are still awaiting something genuinely impactful to be done to help them

Are those who voted Yes likely to be equality driven in general? And will they become activated around other equality issues? There are at least equally large challenges to our creative thinking and generosity of spirit ahead

Rob Carey

Tralee, Co Cork


Same-sex marriage referendum

Rainbow: "An arch of colours visible in the sky, caused by the refraction and dispersion of the sun's light by rain or other water droplets in the atmosphere" (Oxford Dictionary).

I struggle to think of another time in my life when the country felt so close, so together. It feels like history, but at the same time feels like the future.

I find myself jumbling the tenses. It was people, politics, epic story and festival all rolled into one. How could you not but be moved? It felt like a colossal Irish family wedding. I have never been so proud of my country. It is like we all came out to say: We are a caring, confident and proud people. We are Irish.

It is amazing what is possible. "You see thing and say why. I see things and say why not?" said George Bernard Shaw. Well one of those things has happened. It was like some mad, strange dream.

Did I really see Gerry Adams and Panti Bliss embracing? Did I really see government ministers hugging each other and TDs from different parties beaming and gushing like children intoxicated with joy on Christmas Day? Did I really see those tweets from people coming home from Australia, the States and Mozambique to vote? Was the sky really that blue?

I was half-expecting Oscar Wilde and Michael Collins to show up. On Shergar. Wilde might have said: "I feel like the latest edition of something or other." I can't wait to see 'Reeling In the Years' for 2015. It will send shivers down the spine.

The Irish people have flung the windows wide open and everyone is breathing fresher air as a result. David Norris, Colm O'Gorman, Katherine Zappone, Una Mullaly, Ursula Halligan, Eamon Gilmore, Leo Varadkar, Noel Whelan, Enda Kenny, Simon Coveney and Mary McAleese (among others): your names will go down in history. Light has been refracted and dispersed light throughout our country. The unfurling of the rainbow has given off a most enchanting and iridescent light.

Rob Sadlier

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16


David Quinn has called for the Government to treat the No voters in last week's referendum with "respect" (May 25). I find this ironic, as in my opinion David Quinn did not show the respect he now calls for. He brought in adoption and surrogacy into the debate, even though these were not the issue that was debated.

It is also obvious that many of the main No campaigners were disingenuous, in that they were very careful not to mention religion in their arguments, even though this was the driving force for many.

In fact, I think it was perfectly legitimate to vote No on religious grounds. I just wish that David and many in the No campaign showed respect by stating that their religious beliefs were the key driving forces and not the red herrings they insisted on using.

I believe the majority of the Irish public saw through this in the end.

Eoin Swithin Walsh

Mooncoin, Co Kilkenny


Like all Yes voters in the referendum, I am dizzyingly delighted at the generous, fear-rejecting and historic result.

As the 19th-century American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Oliver McGrane

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16


Time for the left to join forces

Less than a year out from a General Election and Ireland appears to be drifting away from the right-left divide long craved for. There is a sameness about the majority of politicians, as if they were just another layer of the civil service. Where is the new political thinking? Has the defeat of Labour in Britain frightened the horses?

The country deserves a choice, not just a coalition of like-minded centre-right groupings with economic laissez-faire policies. Ireland has never had two major parties with a true ideological divide since the foundation of the State. There is an obligation on the left to form a cohesive alternative party and give people a proper choice.

Such a formation would open up a major debate as to political priorities such as individualism versus the collective, the profit motive as against the common good, large companies as opposed to co-operatives, as well as choices as regards taxation breaks as opposed to services.

A whole discussion needs to be had about work and all the different variations of work which are developing. Should work have people at the centre? Or is work merely a means to an end?

There are major debates to be had about the nature of society, the urban-rural divide, the metropolitan elite as against the rural outback. There is a hunger within the country for change. A country that is not at peace with itself is a symptom of political malaise. Without a proper choice these debates will be avoided in the run-up to the election.

It's time for the parties of the left to form a cohesive unit. They will achieve nothing as ragbag groupings. If such a grouping was formed the economic crash and all its darkness might have produced a silver lining. The left may never get a chance again, especially with an improving economy for some but not for all.

Joseph Kiely

Donegal town

Irish Independent

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