Analysis: A government of enemies finally takes control

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The two parties sitting down to face each other as partners in government in Belfast today disagree about many things.

Gay rights proves no exception. Sinn Fein were the only party to mention LGB or T people at all until a few years ago.

While middle-class Catholic opinion, in the form of the moderate SDLP, was cleaved tight to the pedestrian morality of the Roman Church, the doctrinaire Republicans were all for equality in its many forms.

Equality is not really a concept Unionist politics ascribed to.

For the men who were once masters of a “Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State” prejudice seemed to come naturally.

As Northern Ireland changed, the DUP sat sulking in the corner, clutching its Bible and lamenting that its leader Dr Paisley had lost his campaign to Save Ulster From Sodomy.

Now Sinn Fein and the DUP are the prime movers in the government of Northern Ireland.

The former main parties, the UUP and SDLP, have got one minister each but everyone knows that the engines driving devolution are two old enemies.

The gay stories started last week.

The respected Belfast Telegraph could not resist having a bit of fun with the po-faced DUP.

New minister Edwin Poots, for example.

The newspaper reported with mock horror and pantomine-style quotes that the department Mr Poots now heads, Culture, Arts and Leisure, give money to the Belfast Pride parade.

Or, as a reasonably typical preacher from Poot’s religious sect called it, a “celebration of sodomy.”

The founder of that sect, (the Free Presbyterian Church) is Ian Paisley.

Another promoter of sodomy – his Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister is responsible for equality issues.

The Belfast Telegraph could not resist reporting that they will give £180,000 over a 12-month period to promote equality for the gay community, working with LGBT groups in the province.

There is that word again. Equality.

Of course the real triumph for the LGBT community in Northern Ireland is not a devolved government.

From the 14th October 2002 until 7th April 2007, the British government ruled directly from London.

During that time a range of measures, from civil partnerships to protection from discrimination when accessing goods and services, were granted to the LGBT community.

Opposed at every turn by the new First Minister and his cohort.

Denounced from pulpits across the denominations in every city, town and village.

Money neither the DUP nor the former terrorists can touch has been ring-fenced for the purposes of making Northern Ireland a bit more like the rest of the UK.

Many in the province will see today as a great moment in their history. It certainly is.

But people concerned with the struggle for gay equality will take a moment to silently thank the British for imposing gay rights on a reluctant populace.