Cork Pride AGM and Preparing for Marriage Equality Referendum – Cork

Two events of interest to the LGBT Community are coming up in Cork.

pride15The first is the Cork LGBT Pride AGM.

Thank you to everyone who shared their feedback with us in the Cork Pride 2014 Survey, your options and suggestions are greatly appreciated and will help us ensure that the festival is one the whole Cork community can be proud of.

If you would like to get involved more with Cork Pride, we are hosting our AGM on the 19th of January at 7pm in the Cork Gay Community Development offices at 8 North Mall, Cork City, for directions please see https://goo.gl/maps/yaOrx

This is the first of two meetings. At this meeting Officer reports will be presented and those who wish to get involved can get a better idea of the roles.

 

The second “Preparing for Marriage Equality Referendum – Cork” is organised by GayCork.com and Fine Gael LGBT. It takes place on February 5th at 8pm on in the Gresham Metropole Hotel.

Panel Speakers:

* Minister for Justice & Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD
* Dr Conor O’Mahony, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, UCC
* Laura Harmon, President USI (Union Students Ireland)
* Brian Sheehan, Director of GLEN

The aim of this public meeting is to encourage people of Cork to become involved in building a winning referendum campaign.

This is of course very important for us who want a Yes Vote in May!

YesEquality

Water – The straw that broke the camels back?

One of the major comments about the Irish people during the recent financial crisis and recession, was that there was no vocal, angry oppoistion on the street. This was a major factor in much instability faced by other countries faced with tough decisions because of the financial crash.

But why in Ireland, just as the recovery is starting to gain momentum, are now the Irish people protesting on the street?

Major protests are planned for today around the country against the implementation of water charges. The past number of weeks have been dominated by stories about Irish Water, its excesses, its board, the protests at installations and of course bonuses.

It is harder and harder for anyone to defend the mishandling of Irish Water, whether as a Government party supported or you see the need behind the introduction of water charges.

Irish people over the last number of years have made monumental sacrifices. Some have lost jobs, others seen the young people in their family leave for a better life elsewhere, while others have taken jobs they never thought they would do. We have seen higher taxes with USC, property charges and a range of other measures to shore up the Public Finances.

Water seems to be different. Why does a water utility need our PPS number? Why do we need to pay for our meter to be read if we are moving out? Why will callouts cost so much? Why will staff be paid bonuses when there is no benchmark for improvements?

There is a range of questions there that have no satisfactory answers. That has led to some misinformation, confusion and anger among ordinary Irish people, which I have not seen in my lifetime.

This is a wake up call for the Government and Irish Water. When dealing with the public you need to be open and honest. Only ask for the information you really need.

While I will not be protesting this weekend, I have some sympathy with those who do and believe the Government need to take a look again at Irish Water.

Otherwise this Government will face one of the biggest actions of Civil Disobedience this country has ever seen.

The Irish in Strasbourg

EU-ParliamentIts been a busy two days so far during this plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Following the re-election of Martin Schulz (DE, S&D) as President of the European Parliament the focus turned to the election of the 14 Vice Presidents of the Parliament.

The Vice Presidents make up the Bureau of the Parliament, along with the President and Quaestors of the Parliament. They also chair sessions of the Parliament when the President is not present.

Of the 14 Elected Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness (EPP, FG) was elected on the first count along with five of her colleagues from the European People’s Party. McGuinness actually had the 2nd highest number of votes with 441 votes only being beaten by her Italian EPP Colleague Antonia Tajani (452 votes).

Tomorrow the focus turns to the committees where much of the work of MEPs take place and much horse trading and bartering goes on. The size of the committees where set yesterday for the 20 committees and Irish MEPs will sit on 9 of those. The committee with the highest number of Irish MEPs is of course agriculture with three MEPs on it followed by Environment committee on which two Irish MEPs will sit.

  • Budgets (BUDG): Liadh Ni Riada (GUE/NGL, SF)
  • Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON): Brian Hayes (EPP, FG)
  • Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL): Marian Harkin (ALDE, IND)
  • Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI): Lynn Boylan (GUE/NGL, SF), Nessa Childers (S&D, IND)
  • Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE): Sean Kelly (EPP, FG)
  • Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO): Brian Crowley (ECR, IND/FF)
  • Transport and Tourism (TRAN): Deirdre Clune (EPP, FG)
  • Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI): Mairead McGuinness (EPP, FG), Matt Carthy (GUE/NGL, SF), Luke “Ming” Flanagan (GUE/NGL, IND)
  • Fisheries (PECH): Liadh Ni Riada (GUE/NGL, SF).

No Irish MEPs sit on Foreign Affairs, Development, International Trade, Budgetary Control, Regional Development, Culture and Education, Legal Affairs, Civil Liberties Justice and Home Affairs, Constitutional Affairs, Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, or Petitions. How ever they may be appointed as supplementary members of those committees at a later point.

For reference here is the list of which Committees Irish MEPs were members of in the last parliament.

Crowley set to join ECR

European_Conservatives_and_Reformists_logoIreland South MEP Brian Crowley, Fianna Fails sole MEP, is set to announce that he will be leaving the liberal ALDE Group in the European Parliament and instead will join the European Conservatives and Reformists according to Press Reports today.

If this does happen it will put in doubt Fianna Fails membership of the pan-European ALDE Party to which the party leader, Michael Martin is firmly in favour of.

Crowley’s decision to join ECR will mean that Irish MEPs are now spread across 5 European Parliament Groups.

  • EPP: 4 MEPs (Fine Gael)
  • GUE/NGL: 4 MEPs (3 Sinn Fein, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan)
  • ALDE: 1 MEP (Marian Harkin)
  • ECR: 1 MEP (Brian Crowley)
  • S&D: 1 MEP (Nessa Childers)

With Crowley joining the ECR they are now represented in 15 countries. The UK (Conservatives) and Poland (Law and Justice) make up the largest delegations with 20 and 19 respectively and the rest of the group made of MEPs from Belgium (4), Bulgaria (1), Czech Republic (2), Denmark (4), Germany (8), Greece (1), Croatia (1), Latvia (1), Lithuania (1), Netherlands (2), Slovakia (2) and Finland (2).

Crowleys transfer also solidifies ECR as the 3rd largest group in the parliament with 69 seats and pushing ALDE back to 66.

It will be interesting to see now what happens to Fianna Fails membership of the ALDE Party and how often Crowley will be voting with his colleagues.

 

The New European Parliament

eu flagsFollowing last month’s European Elections the European Parliament will meet on July 1st to constitute itself and elect its new President. Most commentators expect that the two largest groups, the European People’s Party and the Socialist and Democrats, will continue their alliance and split the presidency again between them.

So how did the groups fair? 

The European Parliament now consists of 751 MEPs down 15 from the 766 MEPs in the last parliament. There has been some changes of Group compositions with newly elected parties and independents joining groups and some parties changing groups. The Groups now stand as follows:

  • EPP: 221 (-53)
  • S&D: 191 (-4)
  • ECR: 63 (+7)
  • ALDE: 59 (-26)
  • Greens/EFA: 54 (-4)
  • GUE/NGL: 52 (+17)
  • EFD: 32 (-1)
  • NI: 79

In Ireland Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein have remained with their respective groups (EPP, S&D & GUE/NGL) and Independent Marian Harkin has also remained with ALDE.

Independent Nessa Childers has been readmitted to the S&D Group ensuring they are represented in every member state after Labour’s wipe-out at the elections. Independent Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagen has joined Sinn Fein in the GUE/NGL group. The Socialist Party failed to retain it’s MEP.

That means the groups stand as follows in the Irish Delegation:

  • EPP: 4 (-)
  • S&D: 1 (-2)
  • ALDE: 2 (-2)
  • GUE/NGL: 4 (+4)

Commission President – Parliament v European Council

After electing the President and 14 Vice Presidents of the Parliament the next task will be voting for the European Commission President. While the EPP and S&D leadership are backing Jean Claude-Juncker they dont have complete control of their groups. With UK Labour opposing Junker’s candidacy, neither party can afford to lose support on this vote.

  • Needed for a Majority: 376
  • EPP + S&D: 412
  • EPP + S&D -UKLab: 392

16 votes would be quite close. But of course Junker will have to emerge as the European Council Nominee first, a battle in itself, before any such vote will take place in the European Parliament.

Time to Change the Question?

queen-james-gay-bibleAs many of you know I am a member of the Church of Ireland and this particular church is currently undertaking a “Listening Process” on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief. Or put another way, “what do we do about LGBT Christians?”.

Should the church welcome them with arms open and allow them to be full members of the church, bless their relationships, ordain them and basically treat them the same as everyone else.

Or should we create a separate class for them? Should we allow them to attend services and partake in Eucharist and that be the end of it.

Which one the Church based on the teaching of Jesus Christ should pick is, what I thought fairly straight forward, but turns out I am wrong.

I think the question is framed wrong. Its making those who are LGBT the problem, their not!

A recent post over on Hacking Christianity by Dr Dorothee Benz on the recent developments in the United Methodist Church has this to say:

My second beef with the Hamilton-Slaughter proposal is that it further problematizes LGBTQ people as the source of division in the church. In this regard, I am particularly disappointed with progressives who embrace it (including some good friends), seemingly unaware that the framing of the entire thing feeds the false narrative that the problem in the church is homosexuality – i.e., our very existence. Why is the opening line of this proposal, “The ongoing debate over homosexuality continues to divide the United Methodist Church” and not “The ongoing debate over homophobia continues to divide the United Methodist Church?” Seriously, why? We are not the problem; discrimination is the problem.

LGBTQ people are not the first, nor will we be the last, to be blamed for tensions and divisions in the church. Our church has been mired in conflict over its support for slavery and segregation and its exclusion of women from ordained ministry. Each of these sins of exclusion were corrected after decades of tension, division, debate, and yes in some cases schism. Moving past these forms of bigotry required great struggle in the church. And not for nothing, these struggles are not mere historical artifacts. That much should be clear from the 2012 General Conference attack on the General Commission on Religion and Race, the Committee on the Status and Role of Women, and the guaranteed appointment system that has served to protect those who would otherwise fall victim to employment discrimination. The point is that struggle is not something to be avoided; rather it is the crucible in which we create a better, more inclusive church. We need to engage in the struggle to change our church, not try to sidestep our way around it.

I believe Dr. Benz hits the nail on the head. LGBT people have always been involved in the Church and they have never been the problem. The problem is how others treated them!

We all know the stories of how Churches around the world treated LGBT people and the awful results, but now the Church needs to buck up. They need to realise as Pastor Carl Lenz of the Pentacostal Hillsong NYC Church put it,

‘Jesus was in the thick of an era where homosexuality, just like it is today, was widely prevalent.’

‘And I’m still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus addressed it on the record in front of people. You won’t find it because he never did.

This is the crux of it. The biblical argument on Homosexuality is of course based on Leviticus 18:22. Now I have no problem with that, but if your going to base your argument on that, their are 75 other rules in Leviticus that you must also obey!

Now if you do live your life by the 76 rules in Leviticus or the 613 commandments across the entire bible, more power to you!

But of course, in the New Testament, Jesus Christ added two very important commandments, which is said at most Church of Ireland Services:

“‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40

These two laws are supposed to be what the entire Church rests on. The Church should not be about who is included or who is excluded. It is should be about God’s love for all his creations. We do not get to decide who receives it, as individuals or as a Church.

I am lucky, I know, with the Church and the Diocese I am in. The Rector and congregation of St Annes have welcomed me fully. I now am Minister of the Eucharist, A member of The Select Vestry, a Parochial Nominator and I represent the Parish at the Cork Cloyne and Ross Diocesan Synod and the welcome I recieved at Synod by the Bishop and other clergy was humbling.

But the Church of Ireland can continue to talk and listen, while individual parishes and dioceses continue to live and do the work of God and welcome all who come, straight, gay, married, single, homeowner, homeless, employed, unemployed, or any other label applied to people by society.

Remember Jesus did not hang around with influential people. He hung around with shepherds, fisherman, tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans and other outsiders throughout his ministry.

The Church should follow that example fully.

Who Dares to Speak of Homophobia – Speech

IDAHOTThis is the Speech I gave at St Annes Shandon for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 18th as part of Cork LGBT Awareness Week.

“On November 13th, 1895, I was brought down here from London. From two o’clock till half-past two on that day I had to stand on the centre platform of Clapham Junction in convict dress, and handcuffed, for the world to look at. I had been taken out of the hospital ward without a moment’s notice being given to me. When people saw me they laughed. Each train as it came up swelled the audience. Nothing could exceed their amusement. That was, of course, before they knew who I was. As soon as they had been informed, they laughed still more. For half an hour I stood there in the grey November rain surrounded by a jeering mob.

For a year after that was done to me I wept every day at the same hour and for the same space of time.”

This is a statement by one of history’s and Ireland’s greatest playwrights Oscar Wilde, referring to his arrest for “gross indecency with men,” a charge for which he was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. I use his poignant statement not only to illustrate how far the world has come in treating LGBTI people with dignity and equality, but also to show how far we still need to go and why it is important for Days like International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia to exist.

The Collins dictionary defines Homophobia as an “intense fear or hatred of homosexuals or homosexuality”. To most of us it is through direct actions we see homophobia. Whether it is in direct discrimination, a beating, a mugging or even a murder. But as Oscar Wilde’s quote shows, it does not have to be a direct action, it can be standing on the side-lines and laughing as much as doing something.

We all have a responsibility, as an individual, as a community and more importantly as a community of faith in this place to be a place of welcome, to ensure we do not stand on that platform and laugh, that we stand next to that person being jeered and give them comfort. Is that not what Jesus would have done?

That is not an easy thing to do. Society and the church in many cases seem to be more interested in trivia then doing the work of God. Recently the Right Reverend John Gladwin, the retired Bishop of Chelmsford spoke of this in St Paul’s Cathedral.

“In 1933 Dietrich Bonhoeffer arrived in England to pastor the German church. His opening sermon in the Sydenham congregation was a response to the question on his mind, ‘why does the church seem so dull, preoccupied with trivia?’ This is what Bonhoeffer said:-

It is because we like too much to talk and think about a cosy, comfortable God instead of letting ourselves be disturbed and disquieted by the presence of God – because in the end we do not want to believe that God is right here among us, right now, demanding that we hand ourselves over, in life and death, in heart and body and soul and mind. (Bonhoeffer and Britain by Keith Clements. CTBI)”

I suppose this is where I lost interest in the church I was raised in. It did have a cosy, comfortable view on god. As long as you went to mass every Sunday, went to confession, abstained from meat on certain days, you would be ok. There was no challenge, there was no conviction.

This led me to stumble into St Fin Barre’s Cathedral in 2009 for an IDAHO, as it was then, service that included the Bishop. The welcome, the conviction and true belief shown on that night is what has led me to here before you on this Service for IDAHOT. A member of St Anne’s Congregation, it’s Select Vestry, a Minister of the Eucharist and representing it on Diocesan Synod. I feel very privileged to have been welcomed into this church, this place and this community as an equal and allowed to take on these roles within this Church.

St Anne’s has led the way on this Island as an inclusive church and has inspired many other churches to stand on its conviction and be inclusive and a welcome to “whoever you are, and where ever you are on your journey in faith”.

At the beginning of this LGBT Awarness Week, Bishop Colton, who was guest of honour at the opening reception backed this up by saying

 

Many of you see the Pride flag when you come into the church, some of you may have even spotted it on the tower – thanks Brian!, but I do encourage you to look at the back of the church on your way out and read the mission statement. The last few lines sum up to me so much of my faith

We are committed to a Church that conveys the Christian message in signs and symbols, especially in the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. We are committed to taking all people seriously – married and single people, gay and straight, those who have a natural faith and those who struggle with belief. We are committed to identifying and affirming what is good and identifying and opposing what is evil, and living as best we can in the confusion in the middle.

This is the last event of Cork LGBT Awareness Week, and the LGBT Community in Cork is very lucky to have such supportive agencies in Cork who come together once a year to raise awareness in our city and county about LGBT issues.

This along with Pride and the services here in St Anne’s mark us, as a city and church, quite different from anywhere else. We as a city and church should take pride in what we do. People do recognise this. Last November I had the honour of representing Loafers in the Mr Gay Ireland competition and it was very obvious how highly Cork is viewed across the LGBT Community in Ireland

While we can be proud of all the work done, we must not rest on our laurels as there is still a lot to be done.

I know, as do many of you, of people in this city or even ourselves, who have been shouted at, kicked and beaten here in Cork because of who they are and who they love. In 2014 this is no longer acceptable and needs a community response.

When we hear people belittling those in the LGBT community we need to stand up to them. When people within the LGBT community hate on those within the community we need to stand up to them. We as a community need to stand together, with our allies in the wider community.

We should not allow ourselves to squabble between Gays and Lesbians, between Queers and Bisexuals, between Trans* and Cis-gendered, young or old. Yes we all have different needs and issues but sometimes we do need to all come together, recognising our differences but acknowledging that working together we can make a difference to all of us.

Tackling Homophobia in schools and in our society, fighting for a yes vote in next years referendum, ensuring that Gender Recognition Bill is fit for purpose, making sure that supports exist for LGBT people in Rural Ireland, raising awareness of the Gay Blood Ban, making certain that older members of LGBT community will be treated the same way as their straight family and friends and in general being there for each other. As the American Christian Right would call it that is the Homosexual Agenda in Ireland. Not exactly the downfall of society, now is it.

This week ILGA Europe an Association of LGBT Associations in Europe published its Annual Review and Rainbow Index. In it Ireland was ranked 22nd of 49 countries. This may surprise some of you. What would surprise you more is some of the countries ahead of us. Croatia, Montenegro and Albania in the Balkans, and Estonia, Czech Republic and Slovenia in Eastern Europe are all ranked ahead of us.

While the UK, Belgium and Spain top the list it is no surprise to see who is at the bottom of the list, Russia is 49th on the list with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Monaco and the Ukraine. While we are fighting for more protections for our community here in Ireland, the LGBT Communities in those countries have little to no protection. I believe that we in Ireland owe a duty to them. To get involved in campaigns, to raise awareness of the situation in these countries, whether it is through All Out or Amnesty International or one of the many other Human Rights organisations. We cannot and should not remain completely focused on Ireland but show our solidarity with LGBT people in Europe and around the world who are in much greater danger then us.

The Church of Ireland is currently having a conversation on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief. This conversation looks set to go on and on according to the recent reports at this year’s General Synod. We in this Diocese will also be having a meeting at some stage, I am told, on the issue also. That is what makes this day and the events in Newry, Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, Belfast and Derry/Londonderry so important. Its not that these services happen, but that they keep happening, is what gives me hope. The work of Changing Attitude’s Ireland and many individual LGBT Christians in Ireland constantly challenge and remind the wider Church of their responsibility to the LGBT Community.

Going back to the Bishops Speech at the beginning of this week, he made a point that resonated well with me and might with you also.

I want, therefore, to encourage especially those gay and lesbian people who are involved in church life, or who once were, to engage with the debates many churches are having at the current time. [As] Shirley Temple Bar tweeted: ‘Sharing LGBT stories is an important step on the road to equality.’ I agree with that, and I ask you not to give up on religion and religious institutions.

It is essential that your voices and experiences are heard and listened to.  More important, it is vital that you do not let people drive you away.  The loving welcome and inclusion of you is not theirs to take away: that love, that inclusion, that welcome, that belonging are God’s gift – God’s grace – offered to you as much as to anyone else.

I finish with some words from the Benedictine blessing which is often said in this place,

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world.

Because he has, and you can.

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Come Out and Vote!

to_vote_logo_largeTomorrow the Local and European Elections take place in Ireland. Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm.

These elections will be the last Elections held before the planned referendum on Marriage next year. It is therefore very important that candidates who support the LGBT Community in Ireland are supported at the polls tomorrow.

To help find out who is supporting the community. ILGA Europe have asked candidates to sign the Come Out 2014 Pledge. Signatures were gathered from across Europe with 1,156 candidates taking the pledge. Also check out the Youtube Video

In Ireland 19 out of the 41 candidates have signed it. All 6 Fine Gael candidates have signed the pledge as have the 3 Labour and Green Party Candidates.

Surprisingly Lynn Boylan is the only Sinn Fein signatory on pledge and Mary Fitzpatrick is the only Fianna Fail signatory. These are both Dublin Candidates and it is also important to not that Dublin has the highest number of candidates who have signed it with 8, followed by South with 6 and in Midlands North West only 5 candidates have signed it.

Dublin

  • Lynn Boylan (SF)
  • Nessa Childers (Ind)
  • Emer Costello (Lab)
  • Mary Fitzpatrick (FF)
  • Brian Hayes (FG)
  • Paul Murphy (Socialist)
  • Eamonn Ryan (Green)
  • Brid Smith (PBPA)

Midlands North West

  • Mark Deary (Greens)
  • Marian Harkin (Ind)
  • Lorraine Higgins (Lab)
  • Jim Higgins (FG)
  • Mairead McGuinness (FG)

South

  • Deirdre Clune (FG)
  • Simon Harris (FG)
  • Sean Kelly (FG)
  • Diarmuid O’Flynn (Ind)
  • Phil Prendergast (Lab)
  • Grace O’Sulliavan (Green)

In the local Elections no such pledge exists, but a number of candidates up and down the country have shown their worth on LGBT issues. Whether by marching in Gay Pride Parades, being the Grand Marshall on some occasions. Supporting the LGBT groups within their parties and their communities. Sometimes it just supporting the events and individuals. Either way do take this into account when you vote tomorrow.

Ensure you vote goes to someone who will support you, who ever you are!

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Eurovision Debate, 20:00 GMT. #TellEurope

ED_EBUMembers_logosThe Eurovision Debate takes place tonight at 8pm GMT, 9pm CET across Europe tonight. No this is not a debate on the Eurovision Song Contest but a debate organised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) between the candidates for the post of European Commission President.

Who’s taking part?

5 candidates are taking part in the debate. They are

  • Ska Keller, European Greens
  • Alexis Tsipras, European Left Party
  • Guy Verhofstadt, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe
  • Jean-Claude Junker, European Peoples Party
  • Martin Schulz, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats

The debate will be for 90 minutes and will be moderated by RAI anchor Monica Maggioni. RTÉ’s Conor McNally will be presenting the Social Media aspect of the debate which will be broadcast across 25 countries.

So where can you watch this debate?

Well you wont find it on RTÉ 1 or BBC 1.

The following are showing the debate on TV in English speaking countries (Full list of broadcasters here (PDF))

  • Cable Public Affairs, Canada
  • RTÉ Now News, Ireland
  • BBC Parliament, UK
  • Euronews, International

It can also be viewed on the Eurovision Debate website and followed online with the hastag #TellEurope

Not exactly expecting rating winners are they? Well whatever the viewer-ship, I for one will be watching, will you?

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The blog of a Technophile and Political Junkie with too much time on his hands