I read in The Week this morning about Ireland’s legalization of gay marriage by national referendum. “The Catholic Church has lost its grip on the Irish,” writes one commentator. “A stunning transformation from the Ireland that refused to legalize divorce three decades ago,” the article’s author says.
Reasons for the change are varied, one being that the Church’s moral authority was wrecked by revelations of widespread sexual abuse of children by priests. Another is that Ireland has grown rich during the Celtic Tiger boom (have to look that up) which kept the youngest and brightest (by implication – the most liberal) home rather than emegrating. Modern media is suggested as a cause for change.Modern Ireland is a “young networking society.” This has certainly been the reason for changes being made throughout the world. Through the magic of mass-media, people are rallied to step forward for any number of causes, for better or for worse.
I suppose all of these reasons can attest to a change in the thinking of a nation. But I really appreciated a suggestion made in the article’s closing paragraph: “…let’s be clear about why the Yes campaign (succeeded). The Irish are storytelling people, and gay-marriage supporters brought us heart-wrenching narratives of ‘exclusion, fear, loneliness, and unhappiness’.”
Stories have always been the impetus for change. One can argue all they want about proposed legislation that, in theory, makes perfect economic or logistical sense. But when the stories are told of those who suffer as a result of such legislation, it pulls the rug out from under the politician’s arguments. Whether the stories are those of mothers afraid to let their children play in the streets outside their homes, the stories of the children of illegal immigrants unable to get an education, or the stories of those who lose their home because of medical costs, it is the stories that win our hearts, then our minds, and eventually our votes.
2 thoughts on “Stories and Changing Hearts”
Judy, my husband Colin wanted to respond to you about this.
The last 50 years has been an age of communication, thankfully.
The wrong doings of the Catholic Church in Ireland are now common knowledge. The disbandment of the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and the evidence of the church’s complicity in its terrorist activity, the sexual misconduct of the priesthood, and the allegations of corruption within the Church hierarchy, has loosened the grip that the Catholic Church has maintained for centuries on Southern Ireland.
Northern Ireland, being a province of the United Kingdom and essentially Protestant, more liberal in its attitude to contraception and gay issues, since the success of the peace process, is now once more part of a united Ireland, if not entirely politically but certainly in the hearts of the Irish people.
Ironically and tragically this unification (the issue that drove Catholic IRA and numerous Protestant”loyalist” terror cells to exact violence on eachother and on the innocents of the British isles for decades) was not brought about by the use of terror, it was the cessation of violence through sound dialogue that created the political ambience apparent today.
The success of these liberal values threw the conservative, austere and now apparently corrupt and amoral activities of the Catholic Church into sharp relief. Another factor that has had an impact of the refreshed Irish society is the procession of justice, social and cultural influences from its membership of the European Union where gay marriage has been possible in some member states for many years. Now faced with the question of gay marriage the Irish people overwhelmingly supported the generous and good hearted yes lobby.
In my lifetime the thought of travelling to Ireland was once a dark and worrying consideration. The absence of this malice is evident with the acceptance of and inclusion of gays in their right to marriage. It wonderful to see an act of kindness replace bigotry.
What is wrong with being kind to sincere people who only mean to confirm their love and comittment for each other?
Thank you, Colin. for these added insights. I happened to read the article the morning before our Supreme Court made gay marriage legal in our own country. While you are here, can you fill me in on the Celtic Tiger Boom?
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