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.]