Opponents of the ‘conscience clause’ that is being debated in the Assembly have often likened it to the ‘no blacks, no Irish and no dogs’ signs which occasionally appeared in windows of boarding houses in England in the decades following the last war.
That sentiment is also often referred to by us Irish whenever we wish to play the victim, which is most of the time. It needs to be viewed however in the context of the times in which it was used. It’s a fact that in the 1950s and ‘60s the bulk of the manual work in England was done by coloured and Irish people following the bomb damage caused by the last war, hence the reference Irish navvy. That is not to their discredit; it is very much to their credit. Unlike today however, boarders then lodged with the host families, sharing their facilities including bathroom, dining room etc. and it is understandable that owners of boarding houses would have preferred lodgers in clean jobs like bank staff, commercial travellers, teachers, etc. It was not that they were opposed to blacks, Irish or dogs per se, I’m sure many were dog lovers and probably owned dogs themselves. I know numerous Irish people who worked and lodged in England over the years and never had any problems with accommodation
Signs like those referred to above would be no more acceptable today than would be the Alf Garnett TV programmes of the 1960s, but these things should always be viewed in the context of the period in which they occurred.
Cases like the bakery saga a waste of time
Further to the bakery saga of a simple cake, I wonder what would have happened, if the baker had simply said, I do not believe in supporting gay marriage, and did not use religion as a reason.
Taking a hypothetical case, where a republican from the Falls Road, walks into a small bakery on the Shankill Road, and orders a cake leaving down a deposit to have it baked, thereby forming a legal contract.
He goes back later and tell the baker he now wants the wording “support Ireland’s unification” put on top of the icing of the cake, the baker tells him he cannot do that, as that would be against his belief for Northern Ireland to remain within the British system.
(A similar analogy can be applied to a loyalist, going into a small bakery on the Falls Road, wanting the wording on the cake to be “say never to Ireland’s unification”)
I believe it would be fair to say that in both cases, these bakeries would need to have a glazier put on stand-by, for what would happen to his business.
I have watched the deterioration of one’s right, to speak their mind, but issues like these are time-wasting, albeit being a very profitable gold mine for the legal profession, paid for by you know who, yes the taxpayer.
I have to ask, is mental telepathy next on their list for a law case ?