One of the things of which we ‘pride’ ourselves in this country is our ability to make our own decisions. Since independence, we have been able to choose our own way, even if in some cases it has brought us to the brink of disaster.
Nonetheless, the ability to decide among ourselves what is best for us was the whole point of seeking independence, and maintaining such independence should be our tribute to all those who in the past were killed, silenced or marginalised because they fought for that freedom.
There was a time here when anglophobia was so rampant, a statement by the British Prime Minister calling for black would immediately be met by a campaign here for white. We hadn’t moved on from being against the colonial power to being for something, anything, by ourselves.
And we had our own information, our own newspapers, radio and television to tell us about the world in the context of ourselves, not as an extension of anyone else.
It is highly unlikely in the modern world that any outside politician would attempt to interfere with our democratic purposes. They know that any such intervention would be counter-productive. It’s a similar phenomenon to the Michael Lowry factor in Irish politics – any criticism of the Tipperary TD by any Dublin person means more votes for Lowry in Tipperary. The facts are irrelevant.
So no-one with a serious political agenda for Ireland from outside the country would attempt to publically announce their views and try to coerce the Irish public into adopting them. Anyone who understood basic political opinion here would know that would be pointless and counter-productive.
But they would also know that Ireland has a very poorly regulated (there’s that word again) lobby system, where many powerful people and companies can put their case to government privately and effectively. The tobacco lobby, for example, is one such group.
Another group with massive financial power and influence is the American extreme right. American right-wing groups have now almost given up on the US in terms of making that society homogenous with ‘Christian’ values and many now target their message at other countries. And part of that message is an anti-LGBT agenda which has led to the introduction of a law in Uganda, for example, that would allow for the execution of gay people. In Russia, such targeting has led to Russia’s anti-LGBT laws.
The American right is keen to claim credit for these ‘achievements’. Take for example, Scott Lively, currently running for Governor in Massachusetts – who claims to be behind Russia’s ‘homosexual propaganda’ law. Lively, who is being sued in the US courts for alleged crimes against humanity over his work in Uganda, led a 50-city tour through Russia several years ago to warn its citizens about the great international gay conspiracy. His message that the way to prevent homosexuality was to criminalize LGBT advocacy was well-received by many – including local legislators such as St Petersburg, which became one of the first cities to criminalize ‘homosexual propaganda’ – clearing the way for national legislation.
Lively says he gave up on the US after challenging an anti-discrimination law. “I began shifting my emphasis, which is going to the other countries in the world that are still culturally conservative to warn them about how the Left has advanced its agenda in the US, Canada and Europe – and to help put barriers in place. And the goal is to build a consensus of moral countries to actually roll back the leftist agenda in my country.”
So Lively and a group of evangelical Christians are actively targeting LGBT people in other countries in the hope that they may be able to reverse some of the rights won by LGBT people in the US.
Many US conservative groups distance themselves from Lively, but others support him financially and politically. In his trial, for example, Lively received legal representation from the ‘Liberty Counsel’ – a group affiliated with Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell. Falwell was the founder of the Moral Majority in the US and claimed at one stage that feminists and gays ‘helped’ 9/11 to happen. He also claimed at one stage that the Teletubby, Tinky Winky, was a gay role model.
Lively, on the other hand has written a book ‘The Pink Swastika’ – claiming that homosexuality in the Nazi party led directly to the Holocaust – a claim that has been rubbished by most historians that have bothered to examine its ludicrous claims.
But why should all of this be of concern to anyone in Ireland?
It should be of concern to anyone who takes an interest in human rights – particularly with regard to alleged ‘homophobia’. After RTE agreed to pay damages to the Iona Institute for the alleged libel committed by Miss Panti, it became accepted in some circles here that opposing the right of some people to marry their lover was not ‘homophobic’ – they were simply expressing their opinion.
That may well be true. But the Iona ‘Institute’ is not an academic or educational establishment. It is a lobby group, plain and simple. And it advocates for ‘Christian’ values as it sees them. But we don’t know who funds the Iona Institute, so we can’t say with any certainty that the people behind its active political lobbying aren’t, in fact, American homophobes who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, people who support extreme measures against gay people elsewhere in the world – up to and including the death penalty.
The Iona Institute can, of course, clear all this up by showing clearly and transparently where their funding comes from. They can prove their moral right to take part in such a debate in Ireland by showing that they have no other agenda, and are not financed by people who would discriminate against gay people to the point of killing them. People who by any definition would have to be classed as extreme homophobes.
It is long overdue that we had some legislation creating transparency in the lobbying sector. But before that, Iona could demonstrate their credentials by showing us the money.