The IONA Institute: “In Our Nice Arseholes?”

The Iona Institute is the latest Irish attempt to build a time machine set for full reverse. Their publicly stated goal is the prevention of marriage equality, but they will sue you for calling them homophobes, because the further you can draw the bullshit battle lines from the real issue the longer you can hold back genuine progress. That being their sole mercenary function.

This private limited company’s job is to miracle up arguments that marriage equality is anything but the most basic of human rights, now that standing in a pulpit and scowling is ineffective. Their reports read like a schoolchild googling up references for an argument they’ve already written. Fergus Finlay points out how they compared the rate of reported Irish marriage breakdown to a time when divorce was illegal, Senator David Norris told the Seanad that they “knowingly” tried to mislead a constitutional convention about the superiority of biological parents (by quoting a study which specifically stated it could not be used for that purpose), and they’ll keep doing it because think that you can bury basic human decency under enough of a pagecount.

The Iona Institute’s head, David Quinn, has a fortnightly column in the Irish Independent. Because 2014 is a big scary number and jaysus, wouldn’t it be nice if it was a few centuries backwards. He complains that no-one can point to a homophobic comment by Iona staff, but that’s because actions speak louder than even the most careful of words. It doesn’t matter how politely you try to reclassify people as subhuman. He whinges that he doesn’t get any credit for recommending civil unions instead, because you don’t get credit for installing nice carpets in the compounds you want to send people who aren’t allowed to join the rest of society. Even America’s hatemongers evolved past the “separate-but-equal” bullshit, and that’s a country where people are still allowed to shoot an unarmed teenager of their least favorite race.

The Institute recently crowed about their “victory” over Panti Bliss, an Irish gay rights activist and drag queen who called them out on being blatantly homophobic. They protested being called “mean and horrible”, because nothing says “generous and pleasant to be around” like the constant threat of legal action. They got the statements cut from the televised interview and forced RTE to pay them eighty-five thousand euro. They turned down the right to make a statement in reply, instead taking the money and hampering debate, because that is this private limited company’s entire mission statement.

On the one hand you’ve got a man who takes on Irish pubs while wearing a dress for a living. On the other you’ve got a mercenary fundamentalist corporation who contact their lawyers to censor free speech. When Disney get round to a story about marriage equality that will be the exact plot. Because those arguing from authority to silence critics have always been on the right side of history. In that “most of them are extinct now”, which is the right side of history for such backwards hatemongers.

The Iona Institute masters of manipulation. They bullied Ireland’s allegedly independent national broadcaster into paying them for the privilege of never crossing them again in, in advance of next year’s national referendum on equal marriage. The term “Iona Institute” itself is a euphemism. They are homophobes, bigots, hateful oppression disguised as the voice of moral authority, and they’re named for an island of Irish religious history. Because all of those things are an unfortunate part of Irish religious history.

We need to restate them. We can’t let them hide hate behind the picture-postcard of a beautiful Gaelic island, nor can we let them spread hate in our own beautiful Gaelic island. Luckily I’ve discovered that their name is actually an acronym. In the same way that a prissy Irish mammy might complain about a daughter’s new hairstyle, wondering why she would cut it when “she has such nice hair”, the Iona Institute passive-aggressively complaining by asking why the Irish people would want to stick dicks “In Our Nice Arseholes?”

That’s “nice” in the provincial sense, of course: small, normal to rhyme with conformal, and never doing anything fun. The core principle of provincialism is that the potential vague uneasiness of people who hate you is more important than your entire life. Even when they have to use lawyers to enforce it. Why would any decent, normal, god-fearing, obedient little Irish people want to stick anything up any of their orifices? And why would a nice girl want to do anything with another girl? They just don’t understand it, and you don’t want to make a fuss, like, so just stop being who you are so they can pretend it’s 1600, there’s a dear.

This is a group whose head has commented positively on “natural” methods of contraception, when even the dumbest lay preacher knows that the only way to naturally avoid conception is to already be pregnant. A result natural methods 100% guarantee.

They want to externalize a semantic argument about the meaning of words, turning their homophobia a nebulous side-issue instead of the real and immediate oppression of real, long-suffering people. Homophobia isn’t something unfairly applied to them, it’s their entire mission. They aren’t sallying forth from some safe spot to meet us in the middle. Their starting position is toxic, their very stance poisoning the land they stand on and the country they hate in.

Until 1993 it was illegal to practice homosexuality in Ireland. I guess I’m just meant to feel lucky I was born unattracted to men. If Benedict Cumberbatch had been famous in the 80s I would have had serious trouble. Ireland allowed the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles to sleep together in a sewer before its’ own citizens could sleep together in their own homes, and that fact will never stop humiliating us. But we can learn from it, and fight against it, and we can start by seeing things as they really are. And the IONA Institute are a crowd of miserable homophobes clenching against the wall, protecting puckered orifices and pockets stuffed with mercenary hatemoney, crying “In Our Nice Arseholes?”

See that every time you see their name. It helps. Because that’s what they’re doing: being every so proper about it, but being total arseholes.


Ireland should learn to defend itself against Donald Trump with The Trump Endurance Experiment. Or continue countering hatemongers with The Sixth Reason Homophobia Is Unmanly.

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