Edwin Poots is a man who’s no stranger to the courtroom, the Democratic Unionist Party politician and Northern Ireland’s Health Minister seems to be suffering from a case of selective Britishness, several very expensive cases in fact. Last week, for the second time since he’s been in office, the High Court in Belfast ruled that despite all the public money Poots had spent trying to prove otherwise, he doesn’t actually get to micromanage the sex lives of the entire population in the North of Ireland.
If you’re wondering why a Unionist politician seems so keen to constantly waste public funds pursuing court cases against London rule, it‘s because he‘s terrified that Northern Irish citizens who happen to be gay might want to give blood. A UK-wide lifetime ban on gay men giving blood was repealed some time ago but Poots and the DUP insisted the ban should remain in place in Northern Ireland, despite having no mandate to make such a decision. Taking the case to court cost the taxpayer £37,112. That’s a bargain when you consider that he previously spent somewhere closer to £40,000 failing to convince the High Court that he was allowed to prevent non-straight couples from adopting kids. Although even Poots has now conceding that he had gone a bit too far, Peter Robinson, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, declared there would, as usual, be no surrender, and no homo. Doubtless yet more cash will be spent on the entirely fruitless appeal.
This entire operation is based on the premise that people who happen to donate blood will automatically be honest about their penchant for bumming, be aware of the intricacies of the sex lives of some of the people they may occasionally meet for a pummel or write down what a massive, raging homo they are on a form in an NHS waiting room staffed by a stuffy looking receptionist you’re sure is friends with your maw, who’s peering down her specs at you.
Assuming every single heterosexual citizen in Northern Ireland was as chaste and pure as we’re sure all the politicians are would still not defend the province from the fact that in Northern Ireland, as in everywhere else, vast amounts of blood are imported and exported, including from nations such as Scotland. We now operate a much more enlightened “you can be gay so long as you don’t do anything about it” policy when it comes to blood donation, Woop! Woop! Theoretically, a gay man from Northern Ireland could pop to Scotland and give blood which will be used in a hospital in Belfast. Gay blood is already pumping in the veins of Northern Ireland‘s citizens. Anyway, enough on things that make me squeamish and back to wankers.
It’s worth noting that while Poots, Robinson et. al have persistently abused their public office to moralise about sex, their own dealings have been less than sparkling. These days, Northern Ireland is without the undoubted Queen of Homophobia, Iris Robinson, since it was revealed that her own love life was less than – or perhaps very – biblical. Iris had previously used airtime intended to discuss a homophobic assault to declare that gay people make her “sick” and “nacious” and should seek psychiatric help. Despite all the moralising over not letting gay people adopt kids, give blood or even just not be assaulted without politicians joining in, there remain no plans by the DUP to introduce a ban on blood donation by those who used their political clout to procure £50,000 loans for the teenagers they were noshing off.
It’s easy to laugh at all this carry on in a distant land…it is genuinely funny that a DUP politician has spent £80,000 telling Britain to fuck off but there is a serious relevance closer to home. Scotland and Ireland, particularly the North are not worlds apart. Even setting aside the historical bonds, they are basically the same thing – wet, dreary, Calvinistic, miles away from actual political power. The same forces which are driving homophobia there, exist here – they just lack a coherent political voice in Scotland. That may not always be the case.
In England, UKIP have emerged as the gleeful face of homophobia, the fact they have no traction in Scotland is handy. But it’s no accident these forces don’t get a look in here, it’s the result of years of struggle to define and defend what kind of society we want Scotland to be, increasingly that’s a society that’s moving away from Britain and what we perceive to be its increasingly backwards lurch. That doesn’t necessarily mean Scots are less homophobic than anyone else on these isles. For all the chatter about Scotland’s more “left wing” trajectory, whilst that’s true on welfare or the Health Service, this doesn’t seem to extend to LGBT* issues.
More tellingly, the vendetta pursued by Poots against LGBT* people (and all who sail in them) betrays a very strange concept of unionism. Incapable of realising that “Britain” has actually changed, we are transported back to a fantasy land where everyone knew their place and you didn’t run the risk of catching lesbianism from toilet seats. Being “British” has nothing whatsoever to do with any of the people who inhabit these isles or what they are doing, it’s always about pursuing a regressive set of policies for political gain. While I’m not keen on the concept of Britishness and British values put forward by the author, Paul Hagan-Rea’s analysis of political unionism in this piece is bang on,
Today’s leaders of Unionism do not support the Union out of loyalty to British values, but rather the Union permits this religious group to hold power and enforce their religious beliefs on the region. These unionist leaders and their style of politics has, over the past six years, created a greater cultural and political division between the people of Northern Ireland and those in Britain –far greater than Sinn Fein could have hoped to achieve in sixty years.
Pursuit of long-lost Britain based on unequal and archaic values (which usually just boils down to them being in charge and everyone else just shutting up and/or going away) isn’t actually defence of Britain at all – it’s part of the reason it’s all falling apart. Hating gay people won’t bring employment back to communities on either side of the Irish Sea; talking about “British values” which don’t exist means very little to anyone.
Being incapable of understanding that you don’t catch gay from blood is one thing, although maybe not have that guy as your Health Minister. Deciding you get to free Northern Ireland from London rule over the issue is quite another, especially for a unionist politician. Poots is looking back to a state of affairs which thankfully doesn’t exist anymore. Looking forward to a future of uncertainty, possible change and ever-increasing gaiety isn’t something some politicians are very good at. That’s not a problem that’s unique to the North of Ireland or Scotland but it’s one both our populations are familiar with.
Edwin Poots will doubtless continue to wank over a fantastical past but he should probably now repay the £80,000 or so of the public money he’s wasted in his pointless quest to keep the homos/Brits out. Wanker.
Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AThousandFlowers
Follow us on Twitter @unsavourycabal