Ash­ers ver­dict was cor­rect ... but with a lit­tle grace, solv­ing this should have al­ways been a piece of cake

Belfast Telegraph - - LIFE -

Place in­gre­di­ents in cake tin and bake at high tem­per­a­ture for four years. Re­move from heat from time to time and place in a court­house to be weighed up be­fore re­turn­ing to hot de­bate. Fi­nally place in high­est level at Supreme Court set­ting. Re­move and re­turn once again to heated ar­gu­ment...

Was there ever a cake in his­tory that has cost as much as the dis­puted Bert and Ernie but­ter­cream-filled Vic­to­ria sponge?

By the time all sides have tot­ted up the le­gal fees on this one the to­tal bill will have been enough to buy a chain of bak­eries. Or ( just to un­der­line the waste of it all) enough pro­vi­sions to stock a le­gion of food banks.

I ab­so­lutely sup­port the call for same­sex mar­riage in North­ern Ire­land.

But I also think the Supreme Court ver­dict this week was the cor­rect one. As the great Peter Tatchell, the gay rights cru­sader, has tweeted: “The law should not com­pel busi­nesses to aid po­lit­i­cal mes­sages.”

And if you go into a shop named af­ter a Bib­li­cal tribe renowned for their bak­ing skills, you must as­sume they will have cer­tain strongly-held re­li­gious be­liefs. You don’t have to agree with them to agree that they have a right to hold those views.

The prob­lem with North­ern Ire­land is that it’s slo­gans and sym­bol­ism that sus­tain us. In any ar­gu­ment we’re al­ways fix­ated with the su­per­fi­cial ic­ing rather than the real sub­stance be­neath.

I’ve no doubt the peo­ple in­volved on both sides in this long drawn out bun fight over the ‘gay cake’ are de­cent peo­ple. But with­out re-run­ning their re­spec­tive ar­gu­ments, nei­ther side comes out of this look­ing well.

The cake case has triv­i­alised the im­por­tant and se­ri­ous de­bate about same­sex mar­riage. By seiz­ing upon it as a cause cele­bre, some sec­tions of the gay lobby (not all, see above) have seemed un­able to even coun­te­nance that, for once, this re­ally is about that wider is­sue of free speech.

And the Ash­ers lobby has come across as equally en­trenched and not a lit­tle self-right­eous. That hor­ri­ble, judg­men­tal line about “love the sin­ner, hate the sin” has been churned out once again.

It isn’t ex­actly a great ad­vert for Chris­tian­ity, this sort of sour, cen­so­ri­ous, un­char­i­ta­ble stance. In cake ter­mi­nol­ogy, it’s more lemon than driz­zle.

This week’s ver­dict may have been the right one — but this was the wrong bat­tle.

What is wrong with us in North­ern Ire­land that we can’t just sit down and re­solve our dif­fer­ences with grace and re­spect for oth­ers?

Why does it al­ways, al­ways have to end in stand-off, im­passe, squar­ing up — and gar­gan­tuan le­gal bills for the tax­payer?

Of all the many bizarre bat­tles we’ve had here, the squan­der­ing of a for­tune on a fight over fon­dant ic­ing has to count as one of the daftest.

Had the two sides sat down, chat­ted, lis­tened to each other’s po­si­tion and agreed to dis­agree, a small for­tune could have been saved. And so much bit­ter­ness avoided.

But as the closed doors of Stor­mont con­tinue to show, there seems to be no ap­petite any­where here for turn­ing down the heat and try­ing to reach an ac­cord that al­lows all par­ties to have their cake — and eat it. A KISS is just a kiss, eh? Well, that’s not Strictly the case as we’ve dis­cov­ered fol­low­ing the furore this week over two dancers on a re­al­ity TV show caught snog­ging by the Sun on Sun­day.

Which, they should have had the wit to re­alise, would al­ways have been a pos­si­bil­ity given that the tabloids so en­joy search­ing for ev­i­dence of the Curse of Strictly — that catchy name they give to the an­nual phe­nom­e­non of pro­fes­sional dancer and con­tes­tant hav­ing a bit of a fling.

Ac­tu­ally, I think Strictly is a curse in an­other sense. I can’t stand it. There, I’ve said it. And yes, I know that I’m pos­si­bly the only per­son in the en­tire uni­verse not en­tirely en­tranced by peo­ple lep­ping around in Day Glo net­ting, se­quins and ex­cess self-tan.

I’ve tuned in a cou­ple of times, but be­tween ditsy Clau­dia with the fringe trip­ping her and your man To­nioli, who al­ways looks like he’s just sat on a wasp, I had to switch over.

Any­way, as we all know, the real drama is ex-cur­ricu­lum. And this week it’s been Seann (with two ns) a lit­tle known comic be­ing dumped by his girl­friend over that kiss with Katya who is mar­ried but whose hus­band ap­pears more san­guine about it all.

The girl­friend has come across as dig­ni­fied and has pub­lic sup­port as well as the fam­ily cat.

Seann with the two ns, how­ever, may be out on his nose this week­end when view­ers get the chance to avenge his dread­ful act of dis­loy­alty/stu­pid­ity. At least the furore has taken ev­ery­body’s mind off Brexit and bor­ders — hard, soft or Che­quered. And Strictly bosses must be just lov­ing the boost it will in­evitably give their rat­ings. For them, the Curse of Strictly is noth­ing of the sort.

Re­view, Page 25

JONATHAN PORTER/PRESSEYE

Ash­ers man­ager Daniel McArthur with wife Amy

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