There are some seismic shifts already starting to happen as a result of our brave and timely step in to equality, says Rob Buchanan.
In James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Daedalus viciously proclaims: “Do you know what Ireland is? Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow the sow that eats its farrow.” Joyce was describing a nation with a long history of intolerance and self-destruction, always eager to snuff out difference. So I can imagine how shocked (and likely disappointed) those wise Catholic apologists who wrung their rosary beads at the idea of a Yes vote victory are that Ireland hasn’t sunk overnight in to the seventh circle of hell.
There are, however, some seismic shifts of a different variety already starting to happen as a result of our brave and timely step in to equality.
The introduction of marriage equality and also interestingly in the method of its passing (by popular vote) has opened the doors for a surge in LGBT tourism to our shores. Discover Ireland has already tossed its emerald hat into the ring to promote our nation as a great, gay-friendly location. And the wedding and hospitality industry is already talking about how best they can juice the pink pound, which will begin to flow when the gays start tying knots.
Of course it’s not only queers and their families who will be attracted to travel to a permissive and tolerant nation. The statistics have shown time and again all over the world that progressive middle-class and college-educated tourists are lured to stable societies. LGBT equality is the tide that raises all boats. Everything from gentrification, house prices, employment and the seduction of multinational businesses are all far more likely side-effects of gay liberation than hellfire and brimstone. It’s excellent news for a hospitality industry that has taken a severe beating in recent years.
Not Just Tourism
And it’s not just been in the trade and tourism forum in which Ireland’s marriage equality vote has sent ripples around the world. The Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi has said his country can’t delay their own progression towards civil unions any longer. Ireland’s jump into equality leaves Catholic Italy as the only western European nation that does not recognise same-sex marriage or civil unions.
Closer to home, the referendum is a shot in the arm for the fight for same-sex marriage in the North. A March for Marriage is scheduled in Belfast for Saturday June 13, organised in concert with Amnesty International, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Rainbow Project. The DUP government’s continued blocking of equality is increasingly making Northern Ireland appear an archaic anomaly in Western Europe.
The Yes vote will also serve as a great example of the benefits of same-sex marriage to social cohesion and employment, two elements of stability which are sorely lacking during what is the most uncertain time for Stormont since the power sharing executive first started. How longer can the embarrassing, backward stance on marriage be sustained, with pressure both from the UK and the Republic, and from the sizeable LGBT community in Northern Ireland?
Shockwaves Across The World
It’s a cliché that the ‘yanks’ and many other populations view ‘Oireland’ as a quaint nation of charming, but backward peasants. The beautiful and hard-fought victory in the referendum sent shockwaves around the world and made nations revaluate their idea of who the Irish are. It also made a generation stand back, take a deep breath and ask ourselves who were are ourselves.
We are now world leaders in more than just dodgy Eurovision hogwash, Riverdancing and alcoholism. We are no longer an island people torn between our roles as brainwashed disciples of Rome and chattel slaves to London, like toddlers in a bitter divorce custody battle. We are a nation that has rapidly moved up the human rights hierarchy, from criminalisation to embraced equality. And we did it by popular vote, not bureaucratic proclamation. Let us use this spotlight to sell ourselves as a tolerant progressive destination. Let us share our tactics and arsenal of the civil rights war with others still hoping to shift the yoke of homophobia.
And who knows? If we try hard enough to be responsible with our new freedom, we might just prove that we deserved this beautiful gift all along. Maybe this old sow eats her farrow no more.
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