Ashers: Givan v O’Leary

Paul Givan
Paul Givan
  • Paul Givan is DUP MLA, Lagan Valley
  • Dr Richard O’Leary is chair of the Church of Ireland gay lobby group Changing Attitude Ireland
  • Neither had heard anything to change their mind after 48 hours in court

The News Letter on Friday asked two figures who have previously been outspoken on the Ashers case whether anything they had heard over the previous 48 hours had changed their opinions on the whole issue.

Neither indicated that it had.

Dr Richard O'Leary

Dr Richard O'Leary

Paul Givan MLA is leading the charge to introduce a ‘conscience clause’ Bill, which would allow businesses to refuse custom on religious grounds, in order to avoid any such court cases arising again.

He said he remains as solidly behind the bakery as ever following the testimony and arguments heard in court.

Gay rights camaigner Richard O’Leary is part of Changing Attitudes Ireland, a group mainly based within the Church of Ireland, which has vocally opposed Mr Givan’s Bill.

Its position likewise remained unchanged yesterday.

Freedom of speech and freedom of conscience are fundamental to a progressive democracy

Paul Givan

Here are their thoughts —

Paul Givan, DUP MLA, Lagan Valley: “The fact that this case went to court should set the free-speech alarm bells ringing.

“This family business should never have been hauled in front of the courts at considerable financial expense, as well as huge personal stress and public consternation.

“The actions of the Equality Commission have been to fuel division, rather than heal division, in its determination to use the courts as a remedy.

“Governing by writ rather than wit is not the way to foster good community relations by pitting people against each other in a court battle.

“Northern Ireland has come a long way from where we were 40 years ago.

“Whilst there may be relative peace on the streets, if well-intentioned peaceable people are being hauled before the courts because they will not endorse a political message, then we have a whole new set of problems that will cause tensions and divisions within our society.

“As a recent poll identified, the vast majority of people living in Northern Ireland believe Ashers were within their right to take the actions they have taken.

“I stand with Ashers, and nothing I have heard has convinced me otherwise.

“Freedom of speech and freedom of conscience are fundamental to a progressive democracy.

“Protecting the rights of people of faith to be authentic to their beliefs is the mark of a tolerant society.”

• Dr Richard O’Leary, Chair of the Church of Ireland gay lobby group Changing Attitude Ireland: “Hearing the court proceedings reminds us all of the personal distress experienced in legal disputes.

“Prior to his appearance in court the complainant had not spoken in public or to the media and was referred to by the impersonal label of ‘gay activist’. In court we got to see him as a real person.

“I was moved by both Gareth Lee’s account of his distress at having his business request refused, but also by his compassion for the difficult situation in which Mrs McArthur found herself.

“During the court proceedings and comment around this case I was saddened that my fellow Christians showed so little awareness of the painful history of discrimination experienced by gay people in Northern Ireland.

“I hope this outbreak of Christian conscience will not lead to an increase in homophobia.”

The group previously said Mr Givan’s Bill may “increase unreasonable and oppressive hostility” to homosexuals.

Asked if the group remains opposed to the Bill in the wake of all the court evidence, Dr O’Leary said it does.

Main Ashers news story with links to other Ashers stories