Paul Givan: so hard to read

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The DUP’s Paul Givan  was on TV a couple of weeks back, talking about his move to insert a Conscience clause in legislation which would protect people  like the Ashers. You remember the Ashers: they’re the people who  in all conscience couldn’t respond to a gay couple cake request, because it clashed with their values. As I listened,  it  became clear that Mr Givan was one of two things: a sincere (if slightly dim) Christian, or a ruthless politician using religion to hoover up votes.

Let’s take the sincere (if slightly dim) Christian possibility first. It looks like a convincing argument. If you have a conscientious objection to something, it’s surely unreasonable that the law should force you to act against your conscience or else go out of business. If you’re opposed to homosexuality, you can hardly be asked to produce a cake urging support of gay marriage, can you?

So now let’s test Mr Givan’s seemingly-reasonable notion as potential material for law. Supposing the cake-buyer had requested a cake with a political slogan rather than a gay slogan – say, oh I don’t know,  ‘Toicfaidh ár lá’, maybe.  Would we expect them to comply with that? Not if they had unionist views. Or supposing it was ‘Support Sinn Féin’? Um, no, again for obvious reasons. What about if they were supporters of the DUP and it said ‘Re-elect Naomi Long in East Belfast’ – should they be allowed to refuse that?  Um, no. Never, never, never, never.

OK, let’s look at  the B and B owners thing – a linked situation. A gay couple present themselves at a B and B and seek lodgings for the night. Would the Christian B and B owners be entitled to turn them away? Mmm. Or make it easier: if they were a heterosexual couple but unmarried, could the Christian B and B owners  say “No, afraid not”? What  if the  B and B owners were sincere DUP supporters, would they be entitled to turn away two guests if they declared themselves natives of East Belfast and supporters of Naomi Long?

Or let’s take the provision of non-cake goods. Supposing a gay couple enters your clothing store and want to purchase a suit each for their wedding – would you be entitled to refuse? How about if they just wanted a shirt each? A hanky? Or if you were a purveyor of toilet rolls  (  like the ones Gregory Campbell spoke of using a while back)  – would you be entitled to tell these two gays to try elsewhere?

Or picture yourself running a bike rental place and a gay guy comes in and says he wants to rent a bike for two hours, he’s planning to cycle to the country where he’ll meet  his lover – could you show him the door? What about if you were a taxi-man – could you lock your doors from the inside? And would you not in all conscience be entitled to ask all potential fare-paying customers “Are you gay? And if so, are you going to meet your lover?”  Supposing you were a devout Orange Order taxi driver, would  you be entitled to refuse a fare who said s/he was going to a chapel where the Popish idolatry of the Mass was be celebrated? Come to that, would you be entitled to refuse them a job? After all, making it possible for them to make a living might mean they’d get married and bring more Catholics into the world and instil in them the same theology that’d send them straight to Hell?

So you can see why I wonder if Mr Givan is a sincere but slightly dim Christian. Because only a slightly dim Christian would argue for a law that would end in absurdity. If you say the cake-makers can say ‘Nay’ or the B and B people can produce a similar ‘Nay’, where do you stop extending it?  You’d soon have painted so many areas of goods and services out of bounds to so many people, you’d be sore pressed to earn the smallest of crusts.

Or maybe Mr Givan isn’t a sincere (but slightly dim) Christian after all. Maybe he’s  a ruthless  and slightly hypocritical politician,  pretending to take a Christian stand  while playing to that part of the electorate which sighs for tied-up swings on the Sabbath and the dear dead days when  everyone knew their place.

I peer and peer at a picture of the fresh-faced Mr Givan and do you know what?   I just can’t tell.

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8 Responses to Paul Givan: so hard to read

  1. Perkin Warbeck February 17, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    When it comes to questions of morality, Esteemed Blogmeister,it would seem that we the people are just as prone to fashion as in any other sphere of human endeavour.

    Indeed, there is something especially fishy and fashionable about the fleshy end of person to person morality. So much so that one can only conclude that we the people are a queer class of animal entirely.

    One wonders what we look like through the big, round brown eyes of our long, lugubrious faced and four-legged friend, the horse.

    They must be decidedly puzzled these days even as they munch nuts in their muzzle nosebags as they see how some of their species are treated by the human animal like flesh, while others of their species are looked upon as flesh. No wonder there is an epidemic of collective colic in our four legged friends.

    A four-legged friend, a four-legged friend
    He’ll never let you down;
    He’s honest and faithful right up to the end
    That wonderful two, three, four-legged friend.

    Down here in the Free Southern Stateen this duality comes into fine-fingered focus when the gee-gee strings are in the process of being pulled, or not: g for gay on the one hand and g for Gael on the other.

    On the matter of closets and the exiting thereof, the wise words of Lady Whalebone-Farthingale of Epsom Downs in the 18th C have still to be equalled, much less surpassed:

    ‘One doesn’t care a peacock’s feather what they get up to as long as they don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses’.

    There are a lot of horses – from Clydesdale to Connemara pony – currently being frightened out of their hocks and fetlocks,not to mention having their withers wrung on the freeways and in the fields of the Free Southern Stateen. And on a weekly basis as hitherto padllocked wardrobes are being flung open with g. abandon. Even gee gee abandon.

    One basic truism is being overlooked here: not every four-legged friend can be a Gay Trump and go on to win the National,

    A two-legged hombre is worthless as sand
    He’ll smile like a saint with a gun in his hand
    He’ll promise to stick by your side like a gal
    But he’ll also promise the same to your pal.

    Now, as for the Gael.Truly is this a hearse of a different cholera altogether. At this moment in time, going forward, the Department of Leprechaun is charged with organising the up coming 1916 Shindig. (Shindig being the fashionable abbreviation for Having a dig at the Shinners).

    Carping critics who, alas, will always be with us, have claimed this Dept has made a right old horse’s collar of the task and have even taken to spelling Conradh na Gaeilge as Conra na G. (Conra, ca va sans dire, being leprechaun for ‘coffin’).

    But Perkie’s innner impartial reporter is, needless to day, not among them.

    Whereas the L-word (for Leprechaun) has been relegated to the benches the four-legged friend has been elevated to the captaincy. This judicious move came about by the Spin Vet in the Department spotting the centrality of the horse to the Fairyhouse Tradition.

    At first there was dismay when it was discovered that no records existed relating to the lineage of the first and second most spectacularly tragic casualties of the 1916 Terrorising : the two horses of the 6th Cavalry Regiment who were put down as they trotted down Sackville Street. Where their carcasses were allowed to putrify for the duration of that blasphemed Easter Week. And which became the defining stench of that bench-mark of barbarism.

    Fact, as in putrefact.

    That all the stud books had been later lost in the Four Courts during the Die-hard Occupation of the Unciivil War might well have daunted a lesser military historian but not the one especially commissioned by the powers-that-be: a chairde, bualadh bos/ ladies and g’s please be upstanding and put your hands together for the one, the only …Brigadier K. Myers, CBE (for it is he !).

    After all, the old Brigger was the same delver into the dark continent of d’archives and delivered unto us the name of Private Harold Washington, the plucky peace keeper who had been shamefully neglected and allowed to recede into obscurity by the ungrateful Gael.

    So, tracing the lineage of our four legged friends (see above) proved something of a doddle to the tenacious terrier-like traits of the heaven-sent Kev. After sifting and sifting and after even more sifting through the stablised files of the War Office he eventually unearthed this earthshattering equine fact: Sefton was one of us, an Irish horse.

    And the indubitable fact of his being sired in Waterford was the final piece of stable straw which broke the spavined back of the jigsaw puzzle to prove that one if not both of the dead quadrupeds were,de facto, antecedents of said Sefton.

    That Sefton turns out to be from the Decies ought not to cause the arching eyebrows. It is a commonplace in affairs, both human and equine. That some of us hail from the place unexptected. Take Vicenzo Rose, for example:the composer of that classic of the American songbook, ‘Blueberry Hill’, was Palermo born and bred. It’s all part of the Fats Domino theory of military manoevering, a la Myers.

    Thus, Perkie can exclusively disclose to his one remaining reader in Nornevernland that the highlight of the 1916 Shindig will be the leading of the parade down the re-renamed Sackville Street by a high-stepping, head-erect hologram of Sefton.

    (Holy Cow ! what’s a hologram, at all, at all? one can hear one’s remaining r. exclaim).

    Simple. a hologram is a 3-dimensional image which involves a laser, interference, diffraction, light intensity, that sort of thingy. Or, as Brigadier K. Myers, CBE, succinclty put it: this disambiguation business is not at all to be dismissed, much less dissed. Way to go, Kev !

    So, if sauce for the goose is not necessarily the same as the sauce for the gander, at least where matters of morality and the horse are concern, down here in the Free Southern Stateen, one can hardly be surprised if Paul Givan seems to be putting his goose-stepping foot into his Mr.Ed sized mouth in Nornevernland. He’s just playing, erm, Ketchup.

    Btw, Esteemed Blogmeister, the not easily impressed inner bibliophile of Perkie just adores all those humongous shelves behind the learned DUP man. Even at this distance, one can almost hear them groan beneath the weight of their Morroco-bound copies of Webster’s Dictionary.

    Did he, perchance, purchase them at the corner drugstore for a dollar ninety eight at Christmas time for his cousin Julia/Julian? We await with bated breath.

    To conclude: Private Harold Washington. He was, of course, just a lad of nineteen summers and a soldier in the Duke of Wellington Regiment when he was shot in the back when collecting bread from a bakery in the Dublin of 1920 -by -no, not any common Paddy Stink or garden Mickey Mud – but by a Belvo bowsie no less, one Kevin Barry.

    It was the other Kevin (see above) who dispassionately excavated this come-lately tidbit: we Paddies of the padlocked mindset will be forever in his debt relief. As we also will be for this companion piece of tidbittery: the melody of the pub ballad about the martyr who gartered the bread-collector was actually filched from an old Leicestershire ballad.

    Too late to tell that to all those ‘White Paul Robesons’ now, of course.

  2. YankeePaddy February 17, 2015 at 2:18 pm #

    I am certainly no supporter of DUP and I certainly have no problems with gay folk. I am so liberal, in the classical sense, in fact, that I even like your writing from time to time! 😉

    Reason must guide our deliberations, however. And in this article, you go off the rails. My criticism of yours will only make sense , though, if you believe that government draws its power from the consent of the people. If, on the other hand, you believe that government bestows rights to the people, then my position will make no sense to you.

    Frankly, in all those hypothetical situations that you paint, the proprietor has the right to turn anyone away for any reason. That is, as long as they do not accept any state money to support their endeavor. If the concern is privately owned who it serves is its own business. If the concern is directly supported by tax dollars it would have no right of refusal.

    You either respect private property or you do not. If you do not, the slippery slop you put us all on is far more real and the consequences far more dire than a gay couple having to go elsewhere to get their wedding cake.

    • Jude Collins February 17, 2015 at 6:26 pm #

      You mean we can do what we want as long as we’re not subsidised? Mmmm…

      • paddykool February 17, 2015 at 7:22 pm #

        Maybe it’s different outside of Norneverland Jude….!!!

    • James February 18, 2015 at 12:16 am #

      I don’t know if the Yankee in your username is a reference to the United States, but in the US at least, you are absolutely wrong that the proprietors in Jude’s examples are free to turn anyone away for whatever reason they please. All of these are examples or public accommodation and the proprietors would be barred from discriminating based on race, color, religion, or national origin.

      Thankfully, US jurisprudence is on the cusp of also extending these protections nationwide to people discriminated against for reasons of gender and sexual orientation. It is already illegal in many states and cities.

  3. ben madigan February 17, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

    “If the concern is privately owned who it serves is its own business. If the concern is directly supported by tax dollars it would have no right of refusal.”

    So the law does not apply to everyone – only to state enterprises?

    And all the rest is anarchy?

    • YankeePaddy February 19, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

      I wasn’t wrong, James. I did not say that the law, as frequently in place in the US, supports my position. However, your presumption that just because something is done in the US is, by default, some sort of truth standard is, frankly, laughable. The US, however, is certainly in the forefront of institutionalizing law that discriminates against the largest majority in the world: the individual.

      The issue is not whether we find homophobia, or some other bias/prejudice acceptable. If we are to live in a free world we have to tolerate opinions that we do not like. The issue is what is the right limit of the law. If you support the notion of private property you have to respect it entirely not just when it suits you. Many think that such a scenario would lead to “anarchy” and that is equally ridiculous. There are many other social controls than civil law to rely on in a community.

      The community would have the right to picket the establishment whose service practices offended them…or some other none violent means of educating the proprietor that his neighbors object. The best communication would be to vote with your money. A proprietor whose service practices do not reflect the community probably will not be in business long.

      The government’s role can not be to force someone to believe a certain thing or to force them to use their private property a certain way. Today perhaps we can agree on what we want the government to force the malcontents to do…what about tomorrow? Or 10 years from now when you are “the problem”?

      • James February 20, 2015 at 10:33 pm #

        I’m sorry, I tried to make clear that the reason I was responding was because I interpreted your user name to identify you as an Irish person living in the US (or an ethnically Irish native-born US citizen), so therefore your claim that the proprietor had a “right” to discriminate for any reason, is factually incorrect at least in the place I believed you to live.

        I certainly do not think US law is by default some sort of truth standard, whatever that really means. However, I do think it offers a good cautionary far more insightful than your hypothetical slippery slope. Allowing people to discriminate in public accommodation helped create the conditions where thousands of Americans of African descent were lynched between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Acts. I think returning to that time is a far more grievous worry than the fact that you are forced to let a black person sleep in your hotel, but I guess everybody has their own moral priorities.