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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Find common enemies

How Northern Ireland's Troubles might have been avoided:

On April 29th, a motion to legalise same-sex marriage was defeated in the Northern Irish assembly by 53 votes to 42.  Both the Catholic and Presbyterian churches had urged members to vote "no"—but on that question, at least, politicians of Catholic heritage were less obedient to their church than their Protestant counterparts. Sinn Fein, the standard-bearer of militant Irish nationalism, proposed the motion, and one of its members lamented afterwards that the legislators had "missed an opportunity to bring equality to the LGBT community."  Father Tim Bartlett, a Catholic spokesman, said the Democratic Unionist Party (the main "Protestant" party, established by the firebrand preacher Ian Paisley) was doing a better job of defending traditional values than any other political group. Think about that: the Catholic church praising a party whose founder's trademark was denouncing the pope as the Antichrist...

On the question of abortion, things are even more confusing. An "all-party pro-Life group" in the assembly includes DUP members, moderate Catholic nationalists and one member of Mr Ford's Alliance party. Here again, Sinn Fein has carved out the liberal ground, although most of its voters are more-or-less practising Catholics. On March 12th, Sinn Fein successfully blocked a move that would have banned abortions (only available in Northern Ireland in very limited circumstances) from being performed by private clinics. Some 53 assembly members were willing to back the move (which would have forced the closure of a newly-opened abortion clinic in Belfast) while 40 were against; but Sinn Fein used a procedural device, designed to stop one Northern Irish community imposing its will on the other.

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