Advertising | Metro Eireann | Top News | Contact Us
Governor Uduaghan awarded the 2013 International Outstanding Leadership Award  •   South African Ambassador to leave  •   Roddy's back with his new exclusive "Brown-Eyed Boy"  •  
Print E-mail

Apologising for discrimination

Last update - Saturday, February 15, 2014, 02:41 By Ronit Lentin

Imagine a public body agreeing to pay out-of-court damages to an institution committed to promoting, say, the place of ‘whiteness’ and Catholicism in Irish society, because said public body had accused said institution of racism and discrimination in refuting the rights of migrants or ethnic minorities to marry people of their own community, in the name of the ‘integrity of marriage and religion in society’.

I imagine the members of such institution would claim that they are ‘definitely not racist’ – yet confirm they are ‘opposed to African migrants coming into Ireland and marrying their own kind. In fact, their colour, culture and customs are totally opposed to Irish culture. And in particular, the fact that they are not white, and that most are not Catholic, threatens Irish Catholicism and Irish whiteness.’
I base this absurd imaginary hypothetical scenario on the recent homophobia debate, which arose after RTÉ agreed to pay out more than €80,000 to a number of individuals, including members of the Iona Institute, following an interview on the Saturday Night Show with drag performer Rory O’Neill, otherwise known as Panti Bliss, who called out the Iona Institute for perceived homophobia.
Iona, which describes itself as “committed to the place of marriage and religion in society”, and to publicly funded denominational schools, is opposed to gay marriage. With that in mind, it’s incredible to me that Iona Institute member and Irish Times columnist Breda O’Brien insists that she is opposed to homophobia – though she also claims she’s opposed to what she calls ‘liberal intolerance’.
Gay equality and gay marriage are sore issues in a society that, until quite recently, had obeyed what sociologist Tom Inglis calls the Catholic Church’s ‘moral monopoly’. While homosexuality was decriminalised in 1993, there is no gay marriage, which 84 per cent of Irish people support but many oppose in the name of the ‘integrity of Irish marriage’ and ‘the place of religion in society’.
This is a highly emotional debate: about 10 per cent of the population are gay and many of them want marriage rights. Last week a crowd of some 2,000 people attended a rally hosted by LGBT Noise to protest the decision by RTÉ to remove parts of the Saturday Night Show interview with Rory O’Neill/Panti Bliss, and to issue an apology with its payouts.
Like many straight people in Ireland, I abhor homophobia and fully support LGBT demands and protests. However, the debate raises some other questions. Firstly, as migrants and foreign-born also make up around 10 per cent of the Irish population, where is the support for their protests against racism and against deportation?
Secondly, as racism intersects with other forms of discrimination, why is it acceptable for some minorities, including some African people, to express homophobic opinions?
At Metro Éireann's International Leadership Award event recently, the governor of Nigeria’s Delta State gave a speech, after receiving an award, in which he compared homosexuality with paedophilia; surely a homophobic stance. The Anti-Racism Network Ireland protested, since many migrants escape their countries of origin because of being persecuted due to their sexual orientation – and because ARN Ireland is well aware of the intersection of racism and homophobia.
Thirdly, while I welcome the call by many politicians, in the wake of what’s being called ‘Pantigate’, for a serious and open debate on homophobia, why does it seem equally impossible to hold a mature and open debate on racism and on deportation in Ireland?
Such a debate would acknowledge the rise of everyday racism, and the role of the state in racialising whole sections of the population and in fomenting popular racism, and would also foreground the intersection of racism, sexism and homophobia.

Ronit Lentin is associate professor of Sociology at Trinity College Dublin. Her column appears fortnightly in Metro Éireann

Latest News:
Latest Video News:
Photo News:
Kerry drinking and driving
How do you feel about the Kerry County Councillor\'s recent passing of legislation to allow a limited amount of drinking and driving?
I agree with the passing, it is acceptable
I disagree with the passing, it is too dangerous
I don\'t have a strong opinion either way
Quick Links