Calling a spade a homophobe
Dale has managed to get queer activist Malachái O’Hara suspended from his position as a board member from the mental health charity Lighthouse.
What egregious act must O’Hara have committed to be suspended from the board?
Well, last week O’Hara tweeted about the DUPs appalling record on LGBT rights. Newly appointed Cllr Pankhurst took offence to this.
Apparently O’Hara was unaware Pankhurst knows gay people.
Following a complaint from Cllr Pankhurst the Belfast Telegraph is reporting today that O’Hara has been suspended from the Lighthouse Charity while they investigate the situation.
Despite Pankhurst’s assertion that the DUP couldn’t possibly be homophobic because he “knows many people who are gay,” this isn’t the first time the DUP have been caught up in these accusations.
In January 2014 Dr Graham Ellison of Queen’s University Belfast wrote an email claiming the party may have been responsible for gay and lesbian young people killing themselves. At the time a friend of mine shared the following statement on social media:
“Is anyone seriously suggesting that the First Minister, his wife, our Health Minister, and countless MLAs and councillors - have ZERO effect on legitimising certain views? Is anyone suggesting their loud and proud pronouncements that homosexuality is sinful, evil and repulsive, have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with LGBT people tragically taking their lives?
When the biggest party in NI despises homosexuality so openly, there can't be any doubt that at least part of the blame lies at their door. I don't see how their constant legitimisation of homophobic hate can have nothing to do with it. I really can't imagine what it must be like to be gay in a country where the biggest party in the country is constantly in the media saying how disgusting you and your lifestyle is.”
The statement above is as true now as it was then. How can one honestly look at one of the major parties of governance in this country and their appalling track record on gay rights and say that they don’t influence social and cultural opinion? To be bombarded constantly with messages that you are sick, disgusting or morally corrupt will clearly have an effect on a young person’s psyche and mental health.
Lighthouse do invaluable work. Northern Ireland’s suicide rate remains disproportionately high and public health services struggle to deal with the influx of mental health cases presented to them. However by choosing to suspend O’Hara over these tweets they’re sending the message that homophobic abuse and policies cannot and should not be called out by public figures.
When asked to comment Lighthouse said: “The comments made by Mr O'Hara on his personal twitter account are his personal views and in no shape or form reflect or represent the views of Lighthouse.
If Lighthouse receives a complaint regarding the conduct of a staff member, board member or volunteer, a full and independent investigation will be conducted in line with our policies and procedures and, given the outcome of the investigation, appropriate action will be taken, up to and including dismissal.”
The Green Party press office said that they had “received no complaints about Malachái”.
I urge all those reading with an interest in mental health and queer rights to write to Lighthouse charity voice your support for Malachái O’Hara and calling for his immediate reinstatement.
The DUP and Dale Pankhurst think they can bully their opponents into silence. Do not let them.