herald

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Why did Charlie Bird opt to get on the bandwagon of marriage equality?

Charlie Bird
Charlie Bird

I watched Charlie Bird on The Late Late Show last week. He was promoting his new book, 'One Day in May', and I found the whole interview strange, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, Charlie expressed the feeling that he still had a lot to offer. He was talking in terms of the workplace. You see, Charlie retired in 2012 - perhaps he wanted to go on forever.

Here's what is strange about this sentiment. Charlie Bird no doubt has a lot to offer. But why must he be on television or radio to offer it? Some 99.99pc of people go about their daily lives without their faces or voices being broadcast.

No one is stopping the ex-RTE correspondent from working with the homeless or fighting poverty.

Meanwhile, RTE has plenty of talented, committed journalists and presenters on their books. Unfortunately for Bird he would not offer anything that is not covered by the people there already.

Strange

The second strange element of the interview was the book itself. 'A Day in May' is described as a collection of "50 deeply personal interviews with LGBT members, their family and friends".

While not having a problem at all with these 50 stories, it was the connection of the book to Console that raised my eyebrows (all proceeds from the book go to that organisation).

While I don't have a problem with Console (a charity I admire hugely), I found that there was some subconscious connection with coming out as gay, and suicide and self-harm.

I have to admit that I haven't read the book yet, but the quotes that I have read all seem a bit dark and dismal. One contributor is quoted as saying, "there was nothing good about being gay in the 1980s".

Whoa there! Hold on just one second. In the 1980s there was a vibrant underground gay scene in Dublin.

There were bars packed with excited young men and women, there were barges on the canal where lesbians would go to have pints and secret rendezvous. There were nightclubs that once you entered, you knew you were with your community.

Yes, equality had a long way to go, but let's not totally re-write history.

We were starting our quest to LGBT recognition.

People in the book talk about regretting coming out as late as they did, but in the 1980s there were brave, strong people who took it on the chin and stood up for who they were.

It wasn't grim for them. It was life enhancing, positive and rewarding to be totally at ease with who they were.

The Marriage Referendum is now done and dusted.

Yet Charlie Bird, for some reason that I still cannot get my head around, decided to get on board that very acceptable bandwagon.

I think it would be much more interesting, much more beneficial, if Charlie tackled a subject that is less 'cool', less acceptable and less easy. What about a 'Repeal the 8th' campaign?

Circus owner PT Barnum used to drive a bandwagon through the town to get people's attention - a tactic later adopted by politicians.

There is no bandwagon yet for Repeal the 8th campaign. It would be very interesting to see what "probably the most heterosexual man in Ireland" - as Charlie describes himself - could do for it.

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