Sunday 29 March 2009

Scratch the surface and the bigotry is revealed

It is almost incredible that in this, the twenty-first century, it is even necessary to blog this story - but depressingly, Northern Ireland, or at least some parts of it, remains stuck so far in the past that such things are still newsworthy.

A Private Members' Bill aimed at changing the rules of succession to the British throne, including removing the ban on heirs to the throne marrying Catholics was recently tabled in the British parliament.

Now some readers may find it unbelievable that there is actually, in his day an age, a blatantly sectarian provision in the constitution of a 'liberal western domocracy'. But there is. To give them credit, 81% of people polled by the BBC agreed that the law should be changed, to allow an heir to the throne should to marry a Catholic and still become monarch. Only 15% disagreed. Nonetheless, the ruling Labour Party voted the Private Members' Bill down, though they did claim that their own version of the proposal was being discussed. Essentially they agree that the sectarian provision should be dropped, but they want the credit for it - fair enough, one might say, they are politicians, so that's what you would expect.

Somewhat downplayed in the various reports is the fact that the Bill would not have removed the ban on the British King or Queen actually being a Catholic - that ban would remain, to the continuing disgrace of Britain.

The truly depressing part of this grubby story came from the DUP, when Jeffrey Donaldson argued against the proposal, saying that: "A potential monarch who is a Roman Catholic, a member of that church is required to owe their first allegiance to the Vatican. Now the Vatican is a state, it is a constitutional entity it is recognised as a state in international law there is, therefore, a potential conflict of interest between being the head of state of our own country and owing allegiance to another state."

This is, of course, just a dressed-up way of trying to justify the continuation of constitutional anti-Catholicism. The nonsense about the Vatican is a throw-back to another era (the 17th century, probably).

Donaldson compounded his innate bigotry in a press release, in which he said that: "I question whether trying to shunt through Parliament changes to the Act of Settlement is the best use of government time. Whilst the Private Member’s Bill on this issue is likely to be defeated, government action on this issue would be an inappropriate use of time. [...] There is no-one jumping up and down in the streets demanding this change, so why make such a song and dance about it?"

If Mr Donaldson cannot see why issues of direct discrimination against groups of citizens are worthy of remedial action, then perhaps he should reconsider what he bases his 'loyalty' to the British state upon. Is his loyalty based upon the UK being a multi-cultural state, a liberal state, one in which all citizens are equal before the law? Or is he more attached to his sordid little hatred against Catholics than to concepts like equality, democracy, diversity and tolerance?

Donaldson, and the DUP in which he finds a political home, are constant reminders of the unpleasant nature of unionism, and its basic disrespect for Catholics. That the British constitution provides succour for him and his kind is a disgrace, and any politician or party that drags their feet on the removal of this ban is guilty, along with Donaldson and the DUP of naked bigotry.

[NB: in case any reader thinks that my disgust at this blatantly sectarian discrimination is based on sour grapes, please note that I am a confirmed member of the Church of Ireland, and have no personal interest in this law being changed. The law is wrong, and should have been changed long ago.]


Crushed said...

You are right, of course.

The continued existence of such a law perpetuates the idea that Catholics are second class citizens.

Anonymous said...

I can honestly say that this matters not a jot to me personally. I think that it has great relevance in the fight against sectarian hatred in Scotland. Alex Salmond, to his great credit, has been active on this issue.

Seymour Major said...


(1) Firstly, I dont accept that the Labour Party was playing politics over the private members bill. It had to be shot down. The issue is too important. It requires the full attention of the Government machine. This issue has to be dealt with in other states where the Queen is head of state.
(2) I cant accept your comment "this is, is of course, just a dressed-up way of trying to justify the continuation of constitutional anti-Catholicisim" Absolute rubbish. You say you are a member of the Church of Ireland. You should understand this better. You can not change the law in one foul swoop. It has to be done incrementally. This is a first step. At the moment, the Queen is the head of the Church of England. The next step will be to disestablish the C of E and make the Archbishop of Canterbury the head of the Church. Only when that happens is the way clear to allow the Monarch to become a Catholic. Rest assured, that will happen in time. The present proposals are urgent, however, given that very soon , the Princes William and Harry will soon need a wife. It is right that they are free to chose to marry a Catholic (perhaps even a Catholic princess).
(3) Jeffrey Donaldson's remarks are an old chestnut and utterly hypocritical. He knows that these measures are a stepping stone to the end of the Protestant Monarchy. That does not sit well with the theology of the Orange Order, of which he is a member. Now who has a conflict of interest?

Horseman said...

Seymour Major,

On your first point, if the Labour Prty seriously intend to change this law, then they should be very explicit about it, and explain what they intend to do, and when. They would not have waited a moment to change the law if it had been anti-black, for example. Why, after almost 12 years of Labour government, has the issue not yet been seriously tackled?

On your second point (and I presume our "foul swoop" was a typo, tho a nice one!), the same point can be made. Yes, it will take time, but they should have already started.

On point three, of course I expect nothing better from Donaldson or any other orange bigot. But I'm disappointed that, apart from Cameron (leader of UCUNF?) there have been no unionist voices raised in favour of this change. The silence is deafening.

Anonymous said...

It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it says:


this story ties in with your previous story on links between the UU and the Tories. A point you did not discuss in your earlier story is how the Tories can reconcile their modernist 'left wing' postion with wishing to be associated with a party like the UU riven by sectarianism particularly when their views would be completly unpalatable to mainlanders and as this catholic/monarchy issue illustrates so many opportunites for embarassment. An absolute puzzler - unless we are about to witness the grotesque re-running of history in the re-palying of the Orange Card?

Horseman said...

It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it,

You're right, it's a puzzle. I can only assume that the initial contacts between the Tories and the UUP were with the more liberal elements in the UUP hierarchy, but that once it went wider the old-style backwoodsmen got the upper hand. Why the Tories carried on, I do not know. Surely they could see what they were dealing with? It reflects very badly on them, and makes them look amateurish, ill-informed, and hoodwinked. Pathetic that they let a little tail like the UUP wag the big dog that is the Tory Party. I can only assume that they are so desperate to present a 'UK' image in Scotland that they are prepared to put up with the pathetic little UUP ... until they don't need them any more, and then the UCUNF is history, along with the UUP.

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine the scramble had the Republic had a constitutional ban on a protestant becoming head of state?

hoboroad said...

why would any catholic want to marry into that terrible family anyway?

Anonymous said...

The Republic has had protestant heads of state, starting with the first, Dr.Douglas Hyde. More recently... Ernest Childers. The religion of candidates has never been an issue.