(BLUR)RED LINES

Throughout February, we’re getting people from all over Northern Ireland to contribute personal pieces in the run up to the election on March 2nd. 28 days in February for 28 different voices.

There are still the last few spots left to fill so get in touch!


Malachy Clarke

We all have red-lines when it comes to politics. Stances that we will never support, no matter what. They are deal-breakers when it comes to deciding who to vote for.

“Not everyone who voted for Donald Trump is racist. But they all decided that racism wasn’t a deal breaker for them.”

Following Donald Trump’s election to President of the United States I saw this phrase repeated on a number of blogs and Twitter profiles. This is, of course, true. Not everyone who voted for Donald Trump is a racist. However, Trump’s racism has been well documented. He famously draws support from KKK members and ultimately posted Steve Bannon – of Breitbart news – well known for his racist views, as one of his chief advisers.

Despite these issues, it remains true – not everyone who voted for Trump is racist. But they all decided that racism isn’t a deal breaker for them.

Recently people have been describing these red-lines as “identity politics”. This is also invariably used in a negative way alongside something to do with ‘special snowflakes’ and ‘cucks’. Identity politics is nothing new, and Northern Ireland is built on identity politics. However, it’s not unique to us.

American political analysts discuss ‘the Black vote’, or even ‘the Irish’ and ‘the Catholic’ vote. Highlighting the tendency of a particular group to vote a particular way based on their socio-economic identity. Politics are not some abstract conception removed from your individual personhood. Your politics and your beliefs represent who you are and as such there is nothing wrong with parts of your identity – your upbringing or your background for example – influencing your opinions and politics.

Nationalism and Unionism are red-lines for many people in Northern Ireland. Nationalism is an important part of my personal politics. I am Irish, I always have been and always will be. I will never vote for a Unionist party. Similarly, I would never vote for a party that opposes gay marriage or free access to abortion.

To give an example from my own life  – long before I became an atheist I decided that I could not support the Catholic Church. I would not support an organisation that would not allow women to hold positions of power and condemned gay people. I know many good, church-going Christians – who disagree with those attitudes of the church and are progressive individuals. But their continued attendance and support of the church as an organisation means that they are supporting an organisation that holds these beliefs.

The same is true of political parties. Personally I could never support a party that does not support women’s rights to reproductive health care or does not support LGBT individuals’ rights to life. To do so would be ignoring my own red-lines. Of course, there is no political party in the world where every single party policy aligns with every single one of your beliefs. Indeed, I am a card-carrying member of the Green Party and there are issues on which we disagree. Although none of these stances conflict with my core beliefs.

Free access to abortion and equal marriage are human rights. I do not believe that human rights should be subject to parliamentary debates or referenda. This is what makes them rights and not privileges. I’m not going to get into the how or why these opinions have been discussed, examined and unpacked countless times before, and that is not the point of this article.

Although I have no doubt many will disagree with me, I believe it is true that to support a party that opposes gay marriage or opposes abortion for all does not mean that you are a homophobe or a misogynist. It does mean however that homophobia and misogyny are not deal-breakers for you.


Malachy Clarke is from Belfast and is currently based in Glasgow.
Follow him on Twitter.

Enjoyed this article? Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Advertisements