Northern Ireland last of British Isles to hold out.
The tiny Isle of Man has voted to allow same-sex marriage. The island in the Irish Sea, 221 square miles with a population of 84.500, is a UK Crown Dependency but retains autonomy over many aspects of legislature, which is overseen by the Manx parliament, the Tynwald. The upper house of the Tynwald, the Legislative Council passed the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Amendment) Bill by six votes for to three against on Monday, 26th April 2016.
Famous for it’s TT motorbike races, tailless Manx cats, the last part of the British Isles to retain regular steam trains, and giving the world the Bee Gees (yes dears, the lovely Gibb brothers did indeed hail from the Isle of Man; betcha didn’t know that) the Isle of Man is surrounded by Scotland to the north, England to the east, Wales to the south, and Ireland to the west, all four of which can be seen on a clear day from the mountain of Snaefell, and thus has been at the crossroads of civilisation for millennia. Yet despite at one time or another being part of the Kingdom of Galloway, the Norse Lordship of the Isles, Scotland, and finally an English Crown Dependency, the Manx people have always been fiercely independent and insisted on doing things their own way, and in the Tynwald boast the oldest continual parliament in the world, dating back to the 8th century.
The Isle of Man was the last part of the British Isles to legalise homosexuality, which was hotly debated before finally being passed in 1992. Today the island also boasts the fact that the Chief Minister of Mann, Alan Bell, is openly gay. It is thought that England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland passing same-sex marriage have been the catalyst which have pushed marriage equality in the island through much quicker.
The main Channel Island dependencies of Jersey and Guernsey have also given the green light to same-sex marriage, which now leaves the Province of Northern Ireland to be the last part of the British Isles where it is still denied.
Poor old NI. I really don’t know what we are to do with them. Sectarianism between Protestants and Roman Catholics remain and sometimes still erupts into violence, but on both sides of the religious divide, the people can remain fiercely conservative, particularly on matters of sexuality, abortion, and other matters where religion is allowed to interfere; an exhibition at the Giant’s Causeway, hexagonal basalt chimneys forced up by volcanic pressure, claim that they were formed like that in the Noachian flood. The Protestant majority of NI, fiercely loyal to the UK and the Crown, are trying to cling onto a form of British political Calvinism which really no longer exists, while the Roman Catholic minority hold by the strict religious conservatism of their faith, while even the Irish Republic most of them long for the province to be reunited with is gradually releasing itself from church clutches. Northern Ireland is a prime example of just how deeply religion can poison people’s lives.
Yet, I hold out hope yet. I have met people from NI – Protestant, Roman Catholic, atheist – who are really downright decent and accepting of all, and now that it stands as the last official bastion of homophobia in the British Isles, change is inevitable and it too must sooner of later fall.
Meanwhile hats off and raise a glass to dear little ‘Ellan Vannin’, and congratulations to the Manx LGBT+ community.