Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Rainbow Parade and Musical Deckchairs in the Dáil

New Observer contributer Karen Meara with her thoughts on yesterday's NUIM LGBT Gay Pride Parade and cabinet reshuffle

Today, two things likely to be of particular interest to Observer readers happened. The LGBT’s gay pride parade* took place on the North Campus, and our education system got a new minister.

Most students, however, probably didn’t know about either of these events. Particularly the first one. A few smokers may have lowered their cigarettes for a moment or two and stared as a flag practically bigger than the crowd behind it marched proudly past John Hume and the Arts Block, but in the main the pride parade went largely unobserved. Unlike in previous pride weeks, which (if memory serves correctly) were a lot, well, louder and prouder, this year’s pride crept around the North Campus at about half past twelve, when most students would have been in lectures.

Apart from the smallish proportion of the LBGT society who turned out for the event, many of the usual suspects could be spotted among the marchers. Our president-elect, Aengus O Maolain was there with a contingent of Labour Youth and the ever-present Labour Youth banner. Perhaps the most interesting and encouraging support came from a former St. Pat’s rep and our current Pat’s Rep elect (recently elected to the co-presidency of the LGBT). Also in the ranks were one or two FEE-heads, a couple of the Amnesty-crew, a few jugglers and a number of stragglers who all looked a bit uncertain about whether or not they should join in with the rendition of “if you’re gay and you know it clap your hands”. In total only about 30 people (and probably less) were walking, and this on a campus which allegedly has one of the largest proportions of gay students in Ireland.**

After completing an almost-circuit of the North Campus, the parade eventually ended outside student union buildings, where it hung around for a few pictures and a chat before dispersing. Overall it was a pleasant, but low key event. A combination of little publicity and recent turmoil in the upper echelons of the LGBT may go some way towards explaining the relatively small turn-out today. Committee members have reputedly been dropping like flies, with no fewer than four changes of co-president in the last 6 months alone. It is somewhat unsurprising, then, that pride week so far has been such an understated affair. It would have been nice to see the parade march straight through the heart of the south campus, twice around the church and into Pugin Hall to dine with the seminarians. Next year, perhaps.

The second and, on a national scale at least, more significant event of the day took the form of a cabinet reshuffle. The words Dáil, deckchairs and Titanic spring to mind. Of particular note for students, Batt O’Keeffe and Mary Coughlan swapped seats. Batt O’Keeffe moved to the Ministry of Trade, Enterprise and Innovation (formerly Employment, but with 400,000 out of work it was an embarrassing misnomer – unfortunately seizing the initiative and changing the name is probably the most innovative move we can expect from this department. A more truthful name change would have been to call it the Department of Trade, Enterprise and Unemployment-which-we-have-no-intention-of-sorting-out), while Coughlan moved to Education and Skills (formerly Education and Science). This would generally be seen as a demotion for Coughlan, except she is to remain as Táiniste. We can only hope that one of the bits of the McCarthy Report which made absolutely no sense to Minister Coughlan was the one suggesting the re-introduction of college fees.

More worryingly though, Cowen made his intention to cling on to power until 2012 very clear. Revolution, anyone?

-Karen Meara

*for those of you not in the know, LGBT means Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transgender.
** it is difficult to establish exact figures, for somewhat obvious reasons.

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