The old axiom says that ‘sorry’ seems to be the hardest word. This can be true, in some cases, and is usually accompanied by a promise to change one’s ways and do better. So, in light of Paula Bradley’s apology to the LGBTQ+ community of Northern Ireland for how they’ve been treated in the past – forgive me if I don’t feel placated, and if I don’t think a simple apology goes far enough.
Speaking at an online event hosted by Pink News, Ms Bradley, deputy leader of the DUP, had this to say: “I am not going to defend some of the things that have been said over the years because they’ve been absolutely atrocious, they’ve been shocking.” Indeed, there is little defending comments made by the party in the past, which goes far beyond just attacking the LGBTQ+ community. Here is a select list of only some of the things they’ve had to say.
- I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong. I think that those people harm themselves and – without caring about it – harm society. That doesn’t mean to say that I hate them – I mean, I hate what they do. – Ian Paisley Jr.
- My view on the earth is that it’s a young earth. My view is [it was created in] 4000 BC. – Edwin Poots
- I cannot think of anything more sickening than a child being abused. It is comparable to the act of homosexuality. I think they are all comparable. I feel totally repulsed by both. – Iris Robinson
- I don’t care about Co2 emissions to be quite truthful…I still think climate change is a man-made con. – Sammy Wilson
- Her most important job is wife, mother and daughter. – Edwin Poots (regarding Arlene Foster’s election as leader in 2016)
This is the biggest party in Northern Ireland. Let that sink in.
It Hasn’t Gone Away Y’know
Whilst it is somewhat admirable that this is being said, it’s all a bit late. The damage has been done, and it’s been done for decades.
It was only very recently that the DUP opposed the banning of sadistic conversion therapies for LGBTQ+ folks, citing “religious freedom” as a mitigating factor.
Ms Bradley claims, “the vast majority of those people who made those comments are no longer there and the ones that are there have said that they have learned their lessons – that their language at times has not been right.”
Did I mention that this debate about conversion therapy was happening around April 2021? The systemic issues with the party are still very much alive it seems.
Until the DUP takes tangible steps in making reparations with the LGBTQ+ community in Northern Ireland, their words are just that – words. Their actions thus far have spoken very loudly and clearly, and the message has been received by both their constituents and the wider population that queer folks are not welcome.
So, is Paula Bradley sorry? Perhaps. Is the DUP sorry? Probably not. Although, as I think about this, another axiom regarding literary writing is brought to mind, ‘show don’t tell’. It’s time for the DUP to get over trying to gain political points with oppressed communities and show us how sorry they really are.
Further reading: Why Prescribed Medication Doesn’t Work As Well For Women As It Does For Men