Friday, July 18, 2008

It All Depends on Which Minority

It is only right that the State, our Government, takes on board the concerns and worries of minorities.
It's what happens in a responsible democracy.
Indeed, the soon-to-be-law Civil Partnership Bill, has been introduced because of a long campaign by Gay and Lesbian organisations and, indeed, by the Irish Human Rights Commission.
We have long since passed laws outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, colour or creed or physical ability or disability. It is right, for example, that young Muslim girls be permitted to wear a hijab to school in much the same way as a young Christian girl may wear a crucifix.
We have made tremendous progress as a society.
But you can’t help feeling, that it is only those minorities which are well organised and well financed, which have slick public relations machines or which are popular band-wagons for politicians, which have their cases heard and action taken.

We still, for example, do little or nothing for the mentally handicapped in our midst, or rather, not in our midst. As long as they are kept out of sight, most people - politicians included or even in particular - seen to be content.
We do little or nothing for the old. Yes, that old rogue Charlie Haughey thankfully introduced free travel and other benefits. But our pensioners are expected to live for a week on a sum equivalent to what a TD receives in (unvouched, untaxed) expenses, for two days.
We certainly don’t do enough for the homeless. If we did, there wouldn’t be homless.
And we don’t do enough for unfortunate drug addicts. We have about one per cent of the beds we need to encourage them to seek treatment.
The point of all this is that maybe we’re spending a little bit too much time arguing about whether gays and lesbians can have civil partnerships or whether they can get married. You probably know my personal view is that they can have partnerships and it’s only right. But marriage is and always has been between men and women.
We spend too much time wondering if travellers are a distinct ethnic group. They are not. And even if it was to be decided they were - after endless blathering and waffling - what difference would it make? It certainly hasn’t helped our Roma visitors.
Personally, I would rather we talked about the mentally handicapped, the old, the poor, the homeless and the addicted and, yes, the traveller and the Roma.
They are issues involving people who have nothing and less than nothing. They are not well financed. They have no slick PR machines. They have little or no influence.
Of course, nothing will change.
The mentally handicapped, the homeless, the addicted and, to a degree, travellers aren’t great for turning up at polling stations.
And as long as that’s the case, they will be allowed to rot.

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