Writer and Irish Independent columnist Martina Devlin, top, and Independent Senator Ronan Mullen, above, joined Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ this morning to talk about Pantigate.
During their discussion, Mr O’Rourke played sections of Rory O’Neill’s Nobel Call performance, as Miss Panti, at the Abbey Theatre last weekend.
At the end of the discussion, Mr O’Rourke asked Mr Mullen for this thoughts on Wednesday’s report from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child which demanded that the Vatican “immediately remove” all clergy who are known or suspected child abusers, and called on the Vatican to investigate Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries.
Mr Mullen claimed UN committees, such as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, are ‘dodgy’.
Sean O’Rourke: “Has Rory O’Neill opened up a debate that has really taken off in a way that nobody really could have predicted?”
Martina Devlin: “I certainly don’t think it could have been predicted, there wasn’t huge public interest in the subject of gay rights in Ireland in recent times. It’s on the agenda now and I think that’s good that we’re debating it. There are different viewpoints obviously being aired and my own is that there is never any justification for withholding any equal right from one sector of society. I think gays are full members of society and they’re not being afforded the same rights as everyone else. I think the State is letting them down and I think that citizens of all hues have an obligation to stand up for their fellow gays.”
O’Rourke: “I suppose a lot turns on what one means by the word ‘homophobia’ and when it’s acceptable, if at all, to use that phrase in debate.”
Devlin: “I don’t think it is acceptable to use the phrase in debate. I think homophobia’s definition is quite clear, it’s hatred of gays and I don’t have a porthole into anyone’s soul to know how they feel about someone else. I don’t think that it’s a fair term to use, I don’t have a problem with it being taken out of commission, I think there are other words you could use like prejudiced or discriminatory or intolerant or fearful of change and that’s fundamentally what this comes down to, people are fearful of change, we always are nervous of any change to the status quo but we’re now looking at Irish life and whether the definition of marriage should be altered. You know? It was set up as a way of passing on property rights and a framework for rearing children, couples not get married and have no intention of having children and so that element of it has been sidelined to a certain extent. In terms of property rights, it’s very useful and convenient and why shouldn’t we extend that to gays?”
O’Rourke: “It’s one thing again, Ronan Mullen, I suppose there are two dimensions to this that have been very much in the headlines. One is the question of homophobia and how it’s used in debate and we’ll come on then to RTÉ’s handling of the apology and the original exchange. But what’s your own sense as to how the exchanges have been over the last 10 days or fortnight now at this stage?”
Ronan Mullen: “Well, first of all, I think it was an open and shut case of defamation and nobody should be second guessing the settlement that RTÉ made or that RTÉ should have made the settlement sooner. I heard, I don’t know if it is true…”
O’Rourke: “I was hoping we could leave that for the moment..”
Mullen: “But I think it characterises everything because the debate became one about whether it should be OK to use that smear which I certainly think is libellous. And by the way, it’s a sign of how far we’ve come that nobody is in any doubt that it is libellous to say that, provided it’s false of course, to say that somebody either fears or hates homosexual persons and so it should be. And, by the way, we’ve had a debate on homophobia in the Seanad and I welcome that. But we’ll also have to have a debate about new forms of prejudice. I have to say I think that homophobia is all but gone from the country. I think only yobs are homophobic now. I’m going up and down the country at the moment, as you know Sean, and, the European election campaign, from Donegal to Cavan, from Laois to Galway and to Sligo, etc., people aren’t talking about this issue. This is largely a media-dominated controversy and it’s not because people are homophobic…”
O’Rourke: “Is that fair…” Continue reading