The End of Trump & Tillerson; A Discordant Relationship


In yet another major shake up of his administration, Trump, via Twitter, has declared that he will be replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after only fourteen months, the shortest occupation of the position in modern history. Tillerson will be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo after months of both public and private disputes between the former head of Exxon Mobil and the US President. State Department officials have claimed Tillerson was unaware of his imminent release, allegedly learning of his firing from Trump’s Twitter post.

For those who have been keeping up to date with the inner machinations of the controversial administration, it is concurrently unsurprising that Tillerson has met this fate, and surprising that it has taken this long. The myriad of disagreements between the President and his (now former) Secretary of State were public knowledge, the most recent being Trump’s expeditious acceptance to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un without any prior consultation from his State Department.

The argument could be made that Tillerson has acted as a bulwark against Trump’s reactive nature and his desire to hastily and garishly enact foreign policy decisions. For many, Tillerson represented a voice of moderation within a tumultuous administration; with his tenure now at an end, one can’t help but wonder will we witness a seismic shift in the direction and implementation of this administration’s foreign policy. Below, I have briefly outlined three major issues on which Rex Tillerson and Donald Trump have publicly come to loggerheads.

The Iran Nuclear Deal

On the Iran Nuclear Deal, Trump publicly stated just hours after his dismissal of the Secretary of State that he and Tillerson were at odds on this affair.

“When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible,” Trump stated. According to the President, Tillerson believed that “it was okay. I wanted to either break it or do something, and he felt a little bit differently. So we were not really thinking the same.”

Executed under the Obama administration, The Iran Nuclear Deal was a legal framework reached in 2015 between Iran and the P5+1, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (America, the UK, France, China and Russia), plus Germany, as well as the European Union. In exchange for lifting all nuclear-related economic sanctions that would free up tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue, Iran would agree to redesign, convert, and reduce its nuclear facilities, which have long been a point of contention among Middle-East countries and beyond.

Trump, in seeming defiance of anything initiated under Obama, has sought to revoke the deal, stating his intention throughout the 2016 presidential campaign to withdraw from the legal framework despite offering no viable alternative. Tillerson, however, was committed to working within the framework of the existing deal. More nuanced in his approach to international negotiations, perhaps due to his time as the head of Exxon Mobil, he cautioned a more reasoned and diplomatic approach. “The greatest pressure we can put to bear on Iran to change the behavior is a collective pressure,” a goal which was to be achieved by continuing to work in conjunction with other nations, as opposed to adopting the Trump idiosyncrasy of acting unilaterally. Pompeo, in comparison, has in the past referred to Iran as a “thuggish police state” and that Tehran was “intent of destroying America.” In November 2016, the former CIA Director declared that the nuclear deal was “disastrous” and that he was looking forward to “rolling back” the agreement.

Paris Climate Agreement

Reversing another Obama-era position, in June of 2017 President Trump announced that the US would be exiting the Paris climate agreement, inciting global condemnation. Overwhelming disapproval was launched at the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, with claims that it was acting fecklessly and rejecting what many nations see as necessary progression towards a greener planet. Trump argued that the agreement hindered the US to the benefit of its allies, with American taxpayers and workers being forced to suffer the fate of job losses and closing factories. The President stated that his nation’s contributions to the green climate fund were “costing the US a vast fortune.”

Endeavoring to soften the impact of Trump’s brash decision a few weeks later, Tillerson suggested that the administration had softened its approach, and that the US would be willing to remain in the climate deal;

“I think under the right conditions, the president said he’s open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is still a challenging issue,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Perhaps attempting to walk-back the severity of Trump’s decision, recognizing the damage that it had done to the prestige of a United States already mired in controversy, it is unsurprising that Tillerson’s approach to the issue was more conciliatory in tone. In response, and in direct contradiction to, the Secretary of State’s declaration, the White House denied the reports that the President’s position on the issue had shifted, with the deputy press secretary dismissing this perceived alteration:

“There has been no change in the United States’ position on the Paris agreement. As the President has made abundantly clear, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country.”

With the withdrawal of the US from the agreement officially taking place in 2020, it still remains to be seen if any renegotiations will take place. It will be interesting, or frightening, to see how Mike Pompeo, an avid climate change denier, addresses the issue.

North Korea

Long a point of international contention, the disparate approach between President Trump and Rex Tillerson with regard to North Korea has recently resurfaced. In early March of 2018, it was announced that a historic meeting would take place between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un in relation to the regime’s nuclear disarmament. These talks will represent the first time ever that a sitting US president has met with a North Korean leader. Officials in the administration hope that a US-North Korea summit meeting will take place prior to the end of May.

While diplomatic talks between the two nations are undoubtedly a progressive step in securing international peace, the President and the Secretary of State had been at loggerheads over how to advance towards such an objective. Tillerson is one of the few members of Trump’s administration to be vocally supportive of talks with North Korea, offering the nation a chance to engage in diplomatic talks in August of 2017:

“We do not seek a regime change, we do not seek a collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th Parallel […] We are trying to convey to the North Koreans: ‘We are not your enemy, we are not your threat. But you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us, and we have to respond.’ ”

Trump, however, had not found Tillerson’s views to be in line with his own. Over the past year, Trump has displayed an increasingly hawkish view towards North Korea, insisting that Tillerson was “wasting his time” in seeking to negotiate with the regime. Pompeo, on the other hand, appears to embrace Trump’s antagonistic style of arbitration with respect to North Korea, a facet of the former CIA Director that the President undoubtedly finds appealing. In sharp contrast from Tillerson’s moderate tone, Pompeo on March 11 was insistent that appeasement for North Korea was not forthcoming: “Make no mistake about it, while these negotiations are going on, there will be no concessions made.”

Following a familiar pattern of Trump appointees, Pompeo is an untested diplomat, and doubts have been raised about whether he is up to the challenge of dealing effectively with the North Koreans. Pompeo represents a Secretary of State who is ostensibly more agreeable to Trump’s views, and the difference in ideology of how to most productively engage North Korea was perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back of Tillerson’s tenure in an undulating administration. Although the criticism was regularly fired at Tillerson that he was ineffective in his position at Secretary of State, many pundits are fearful of what may occur with the appointment of someone who is more amenable to Trump’s viewpoints.

Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.


The Effects of US Tariffs on Ireland


Earlier this week, President Donald Trump announced that he would be enforcing a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% on aluminum products entering the United States, in order to combat what he believes to be the undermining of these industries in the US. Trump, ever the defiant, is on the surface neglecting the wealth of economic evidence at his disposal to suggest that these measures are foolish, given that US industries use more steel and aluminum than they actually produce. This means that imports of competitively priced steel from other nations such as China are vital to meet demands. Embracing his protectionist campaign promises, Trump cited the overproduction of Chinese steel and national security interests as the main drivers of his seemingly spontaneous decision, sparking criticism within his own administration culminating in the resignation of Trump’s chief economic advisor Gary Cohn.

In response to the proposed tariffs, the chief of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has cautioned that Trump could speak a trade war in which no side will emerge stronger. The European Union has already pledged to take retaliatory measures by imposing its own tariffs on US products such as bourbon, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and denim jeans. The increased risk is that the both the US and the EU could continue to expand the range of products which will be subjected to tariffs in a tit-for-tat exchange, with the cost and effects of a trade war continuing to mount. Once again, Trump displays a stunningly ignorant understanding of history and international relations in exchange for short-sighted political point scoring.

Given Ireland’s place within the European Union, what effect could this trade war have on our small island nation? Ireland, as an open economy, is highly dependent on trade and external investment to sustain its economic development. Fortunately, as it stands, Trump’s proposed tariffs would not take to great a toll on the vitality of the Irish economy, as we neither produce nor export steel or aluminium. However, should the worst be realised and the trade war continues to escalate, Ireland could take a significant hit.

Late last year, Ireland suffered the ire of President Trump in a speech about America’s tax reform, in which he singled out Ireland’s controversial low corporation tax rate in seeking to attract international business at the expense of other countries. Declining relations as a combined result of US tax reform and the newly imposed tariffs could spell trouble for Ireland. Perhaps aided by substantial familial and cultural ties, the United States is overwhelmingly Ireland’s biggest export market, with roughly 23% of all Irish goods that are exported going to the industrial nation. These include pharmaceutical products, alcoholic beverages, and optical/medical instruments. Due to Ireland’s position within the European Union, it is also ideally located to act as a point of entry in to the EU and other markets.

Despite its small size and relative infancy as a nation, Ireland is the 27th largest export economy in the world, and possesses a trade surplus of $20.5 billion over the United States. While talks of a trade war between America and other nations appear to still be in their infancy, if they were to escalate Ireland could find itself disconcertingly exposed. The Department of Business has thus suggested that Irish manufacturers seek other markets with which to trade in order to act as a bulwark against any mitigating damages that could result as part of a trade war. Ireland has benefited enormously as a result of its participation in the EU, but the US is its biggest trading partner outside of the trading bloc, and one that it cannot afford to lose.

Have the 2018 Winter Olympics ushered in a new era of international peace?

“This would not represent the first time that the rouge nation has agreed to come to the bargaining table, and if history is any indication, one can imagine that it won’t be the last.”



Following on from the success of a peaceful Winter Olympics on the Korean Peninsula in Pyeongchang, South Korea has declared that its bellicose neighbour to the north is willing to enter in to negotiating talks with regards to its nuclear capabilities. It would appear that both Koreas recognise the opportunity to capitalise on the peaceful proceedings that took hold as a result of the Olympics. According to the BBC, envoys from South Korea will convey what can at this time only be described as a clandestine message from Pyongyang to the United States, with pundits and commentators speculating that the North is willing to secede, or at the very least freeze, its nuclear weapons program.

The impassioned and refractory rhetoric that has surrounded the belligerent North Korea and its nuclear program over the past year, ranging from President Trump’s infamous proclamation of ‘fire and fury‘ to North Korea’s use of the word ‘dotard’ in slighting the American president’s intellect, has meant that any morsel of progress which can be made in halting the communist nation’s nuclear ambitions is a welcome and optimistic reprieve from the heated and exhaustive exchange dominating headlines.

However promising an open dialogue may be in dealing with North Korea and its nuclear aspirations, it is important to be conscious of past proceedings. I would identify myself as an idealist in international relations, yet I recognise that it would behove international politicians and diplomats, as well as the public, to embrace a realist approach and be cognizant of the negotiating history between North Korea and the wider world. This would not represent the first time that the rouge nation has agreed to come to the bargaining table, and if history is any indication, one can imagine that it won’t be the last.

Reaching back to the 1990s, North Korea agreed to enter in to diplomatic talks with the United States under the Clinton administration, in which it was agreed that its plutonium reactors (necessary for creating nuclear weapons) would be replaced by two-light water reactors. The United States would also provide 500,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil annually to the North in order to make up for any lost energy production as a result of what was hoped to be a progressive deal.

Although the Agreed Framework between the United States of America and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was signed in October of 1994, the Bush administration determined that the nation was being deceitful by attempting to create nuclear weapons using another process – highly enriched uranium vis-a-vis a unranium-enrichment program. In condemnation, the Bush administration terminated the U.S. supply of oil to the North, causing the regime to counteract by restarting the nuclear program it had agreed to cease under the direction of the Clinton administration. When the North Koreans subsequently conducted their first nuclear test in 2006, the Bush administration attempted to establish new negotiations, which were ultimately rebuked. It was a case of too little, too late; the North Koreans had at this stage little incentive to relinquish its hoard of plutonium, irregardless of the international community and its protestations.

While the case can be made that both the Clinton and Bush administrations could have engaged the North Korean’s in more effective negotiations, we must recognise the culpability of duplicity in the North’s clandestine actions. Should we believe that this time will be any different? Has the traditionally antagonistic autocracy turned over a new leaf? It is, as with most incidences relating to North Korea, ambiguous. Although talks between the South and North is an auspicious project, history warns us to err on the side of caution. The discovery of North Korea’s uranium concealment by the Bush administration, as well as its controversial withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2003, are important chips to bring to the bargaining table.

Admonishment of Trump’s brash and braggadocios style of negotiation on such a delicate affair aside, I believe it is detrimental that any agreement between North Korea and the international community place a strong emphasis on these past derelictions. Binding and irrevocable assurances from the regime that should a satisfactory agreement for all parties be reached, representing the first stepping-stone to a peaceful peninsula and ultimately a safer world, it is imperative that any shadow of a doubt be removed that the North Koreans are once again partaking in any undisclosed nuclear activities.


My apprehension got the best of me.

IMG_0228It is a strange curiosity, the suffocating effect that something as graceful and delicate as snow can have on your mind. Paradoxical in nature, the aesthetic beauty of snow brings with it the foul fetter of confinement. Endeavoring to translate this incongruous feeling as physical manifestations, the closest comparison I can conjure is that if someone were using both of their hands to squeeze your brain very tightly.

There is a phantom pressure.

You struggle to focus.

One hour has passed.

Cabin fever begins to creep in, slowly, like a toxin slithering through your consciousness.

A dull, familiar pain emanates from the crest of your spine, swirling its way around your skull as it ruminates in your forehead, settling behind the eyes.

As occupying yourself presents itself as your foremost task, tangential thoughts begin to sprout. You feel as though time is slipping through your fingers as the days begin to blur in to one.

You struggle to feel as though you’ve caught sufficient breath, subjected to perpetual asphyxiation.

Two hours have passed.

There is a consuming restlessness that begins to swallow you. Throbbing like a pulsing wound, the effervescent, dull pain only serves to heighten your awareness of the lack of stimulation that cyclically fuels the throbbing; an ouroboros snake.

You pause.

A third hour has passed.

Abruptly, you catch your thoughts, repulsing the festering unease that the snow has compounded during your contemplation.

Yet it continues to fall, tauntingly, oblivious to your sensitivities, so gentle and playfully that your anxieties, when you pause for reflection, seem exaggerated. You feel petty for letting something as mundane as the weather shroud you in a blanket of apprehension, childlike in your petulance as you reflect on the indiscretion of your melancholy.

I’m glad I wrote something.


But we’re pretty much already equal anyway, aren’t we?

Recently, a male student at the school where I work asked me a question while waiting at the reception desk for his next class to begin. He had picked up a leaflet that was placed on the far end of my large desk for the Dublin Feminist Film Festival, briefly flicking through its short pages before placing it back down on the desk. The question was distinct in its simplicity and innocuousness, given the context in which the word is usually surrounded when discussed between two men.

“What’s the definition of a feminist?”

As mentioned, the frankness of the question was somewhat disarming, given the combative rhetoric that so often surrounds any mention of the word.

In the moment, I felt the best way I could summarise the term was ‘Someone who believes that men and women should be treated equally’. Obviously the thinking behind feminism is more refined and nuanced than this, but I was working and did not want to get in to what I mistakenly anticipated to be a long and moral discussion while at work with a student.

“Oh right”, the student said. “But we’re pretty much already equal anyway, aren’t we?”

It was an innocent question and not meant with any antipathy. It was just a genuine case of the issues of feminism and gender equality having never crossed or effected the student’s life in any pronounced fashion, and so his knowledge was subsequently deficient. I have no reason to believe that this student does not believe in equality for men and women, and that he does accept, as would any reasonable person in contemporary Irish society, that gender equality is the contemporary norm. Ignorance is bliss, as it were.

However, inculpable as this ignorance may seem, it is worryingly symptomatic of a deeper problem not only in Ireland, but across the Western world. Not only is it worrying, it is actually quite dangerous; the notion that we have already reached peak equality between the genders. Insist that this is the case until you are blue in the face, but it is simply not true.

I did not want to delve too far down the rabbit hole in explaining to this student why his belief was unsubstantiated, as I did not feel it was an appropriate conversation to have casually at my place of work between myself and a student.

Briefly attempting to summarise why it was not the case that we have already achieved the desired level of equality, I asked the student “How often do you hear on the news the story of a woman who has been raped or abused by a man? Almost daily”. While there is a plethora of information and academic study on the various levels of gender inequality that still exist today, my thinking was that the best way to shut down the conversation about this delicate topic was to present the student with a point he couldn’t refute there and then.

The tactic worked. The student shrugged his shoulders in resignation and said “Yeah, suppose so”. Our discussion ended there, of which I was glad as these discussions can often end unpleasantly.

For me, this exchange highlighted the unfortunate level of unawareness that is still ubiquitous when it comes to the goals of feminism and gender equality. While, thankfully, discussions and discourses surrounding these issues are gaining traction, it is clear there are still hurdles to jump. The media is currently awash with scandals of famous (now infamous) men in positions of status and power who have committed an assortment of duplicitous deeds from groping to public masturbating, all the way up to sexual and sometimes violent harassment.

Using the examples of rape and abuse were on the extreme end of the spectrum in this example with the student, and are quantifiable and verifiable given the statistics that we have. However, other issues that feminism is attempting to tackle are often much more subdued and omnipresent in everyday life, and are unfortunately ones that can be witnessed daily.

Gender inequality towards women can be observed in more subtle ways than what is reported on the news; the tone a man uses when speaking to a woman he assumes is totally ignorant of a particular topic, talking over her in a room full of peers, sobriquets such as ‘love’ or ‘sweetheart’ that are uttered in the same vain as one would to a child, commenting on the appearance of an anchor-woman on television, or the inclination to cut short a conversation when spotting a fellow man who has entered the room. I have tried to invoke empathy and make myself more aware of when these incidents occur, and have come to appreciate that built up over time, the attrition of these small acts must take a substantial toll on a person’s identity and self-confidence. It can truly be difficult to recognise something as an issue when it has been so deeply ingrained in to what society considers ordinary, and therefore the mistaken assumption can be made that equality is today abound for all.

I will admit that I myself have been wont to engage in these less conspicuous acts of sexism, as have many people I interact with. I am actively working on personally refuting a system of gender inequality so subtle that I did not even realise I too was entrenched in it. In a culture so rampant with famous men being ousted for their clandestine misconduct towards women, it is easy to feel that these indirect instances of inequality are inconsequential or blown out of proportion, if not totally fabricated altogether. Yet they are equally as important to stifle when we encounter them, not only by challenging our peers but by taking the time to reflect on our own actions, our own words, and our own thoughts. It is with these building blocks that even more damaging levels of sexism and gender inequality can be built upon in order to challenge broader issues.

If you douse the tinder in water, then the fire cannot light. As men, we need to start by tackling casual habits such as talking over women to ensure more detrimental practices are not normalised.

But we’re pretty much already equal anyway, aren’t we?


The Ignorant Voter

Rag ‘n’ Bone man is a popular figure in the contemporary music scene, and he undoubtedly influenced a number of his listeners when he publicly put forth his political stance on the Channel 4 news prior to the UK’s general election in June 2017. The sway that a figure such as Rag ‘n’ Bone man possesses when it comes to younger generations and their decision to vote is certainly positive, but the singer’s lack of clarification as to why he was voting for Labour other than on an ostensibly emotional level is a worrying symptom of the democratic process that needs to be countered.

When asked by a Channel 4 correspondent why he would be voting Labour, Rag ‘n’ Bone man replied “because of various different issues.” After he was pressed further on what appeals to him about Labour’s vision, the singer hesitated as if unsure, stating “Honestly, I’m not politically savvy.” He continued that he has, referring to Jeremy Corbyn, “seen a man that speaks with passion,” and that he can “relate to what he says,” yet he failed to offer the interviewer a single policy point or campaign pledge that he finds appealing of the candidate or the Labour Party.

Modern politics has become inexplicably intertwined with what’s culturally fashionable, as we witnessed with the ‘Grime for Corbyn’ campaign that was popularised prior to the 2017 UK General Election by young artists. While an increased voter participation amongst young voters is a positive indication for future elections, citizens should not be encouraged to vote just for the sake of it without an understanding of the issues and policies that reflect their choice. The argument could be proposed that an ignorant voter is no more valuable to the system than an abstainer. Democracy is fundamentally a meritorious social mechanism, but it is flawed insofar as it gives an equally weighted voice to those who are politically impetuous as to those who are politically savvy.

Perhaps criticisms could be levelled that this is an elitist position to espouse, but as we saw with Donald Trump during the infamous U.S. presidential race of 2016, the ignorance of voters can be manipulated so that people vote against their own self-interest. Take the state of West Virginia as an example, where Trump campaigned on the promise of restoring waning coal jobs, to which he received much acclaim across the populous. This happened despite the fact that coal-related jobs account for only 5% of total employment in that state, yet West Virginians awarded Trump almost three times as many votes as Hillary Clinton. This was the strain of ignorance that Trump capitalised on to successfully clinch the presidency, convincing voters to listen to their hearts and not their heads. Trump has continued this trend in to his presidency, as he intends to push a controversial healthcare bill through Congress that would actually hurt a large proportion of the same working-class, poorer voter base who put him in the White House.

Image result for donald trump west virginia

It is therefore critical that voters are informed before they go to the polling station. While I do feel Jeremy Corbyn was the right choice for UK voters during the general election, knowing why is imperative, as opposed to giving in to appealing sound bites, ambiguous promises, and the natural instinct to follow the consensus of your peers.

This prevalent endemic is what is known as post-truth politics, when voters are appealed to by way of emotional reasoning, even to the detriment of fact and logic based arguments. A prime illustration of how this concept of post-truth manifested itself within the context of British diplomacy was evident when a Brexit voter was asked on live radio what policies influenced his decision in voting for the exit from the EU, and he couldn’t name a single one. The clip would be laughable if it didn’t reflect such a painfully tragic sentiment in that a large number of proponents for Brexit fell victim to inaccurate information advanced by the Leave campaign. The most fervent of this false information was that the EU costs Britain £350 million a week, money that could be better spent on Britain’s failing NHS. Later fact checked by The Telegraph, the real figure turned out to actually be just over half of what was stated by the Leave campaign, a difference of £190 million per week. False information such as this spreads like wildfire, and the assuming voter may take it as gospel and understandably cast their vote in reaction to such a provocative, if misinformed, topic.

Image result for 350 million nhs

The key then is not to eliminate the democratic process or to curtail obtuse participants, but to ensure that voters take the time to absorb and critically analyse the rhetoric and information. We must combat the hampering conflation of personal emotions and political discernment to safeguard the welfare of every citizen, and to protect the democratic process from further pollution of post-truth. I do not believe that there was any malice or ill-intent in Rag ‘n’ Bone’s man’s statements, but rather that they represent a contemporary conundrum of simultaneously ensuring increased voter participation while eliminating fraudulent or ambiguous dialogue that can be employed to misinform. The more informed voters there are, the stronger the democratic process will become.

I’m off to see Spider-Man: Homecoming tonight. Have a good weekend.


Socially Conservative Values in the 21st Century

I am writing this blog entry in response to a recent article published on the Journal’s website. The piece was written by Larry Donnelly, a law professor at NUI Galway, in which the header read ‘Leo is right to welcome people who have socially conservative views’. The article was written in reaction to the resignation of Liberal Democratic leader Tim Farron in the United Kingdom, and what he viewed as his inability to separate his Christian faith from the policies of his party. This has led to somewhat of a social backlash, with many Christians across Britain bemoaning that they are being victimised for their faith, but this a narrow and ill-informed position.

Firstly, if we really delve deep in to the attitude of social conservatism, does it ever really produce positive connotations? I understand that there is a universal moral and absolute calibre to which we as developed societies must consistently strive to uphold, such as opposing murder, theft, rape, animal abuse, etc. It is widely recognised that certain standards will almost certainly never change and should be conserved for good reason. I would propose that most people are conservative insofar as they know it is not acceptable to brawl on the street or shoot heroin at work. Social liberalism, as a counterbalance to social conservatism, understandably has its limits, and a balance between the freedom to express yourself while upholding the basic laws that allow society to function without chaos is universally understood.

While social conservatism is a common term that is often used to blanket cover a broad spectrum of innocuous ideologies, scratching beneath the surface reveals a darker truth. A quick Google search produces the following sentence: “Social conservatism is a political ideology that focuses on the preservation of what are seen as traditional values.” It is a relatively harmless phrase upon first reading, yet the truth is that it is often laden with discriminatory and prejudiced connotations. For example, a typical stance of someone who identifies as a social conservative may be that they believe in the sanctity of the traditional family unit: one man and one woman, with perhaps a few children. In the socially conservative outlook, there is no place for gay marriages, gay couples adopting children, or the right for women to choose to have an abortion. Other beliefs may include the rejection of scientific teachings, such as the theory of evolution or climate change.

It is acceptable to fundamentally disagree with someone of a social conservative sway on issues such as the ones outlined briefly above, as it is their right within a democratic society to hold views to which others may disagree. As Evelyn Beatrice Hall notes in The Life of Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Some people may say that Iron Man 3 is a good film, and while they may be wrong, they are entitled to that opinion.

Disagreeing with someone’s point of view is one matter, but what is irreparably unconscionable is the argument posited by Donnelly in defence of socially conservative views and their right to a political voice, and by extension political influence in a democratic society. Whether we may disagree or not, anyone is entitled to hold discriminatory, prejudiced, xenophobic, homophobic, and ultimately ignorant views about whatever they wish, but what they should not have the right to do is to penetrate these views in to political discourse in an attempt to influence the functioning of society in order to align with these same exclusionary views. This is particularly true in cases where people’s social convictions are shaped by their religious beliefs, either partly or in full, as was the barrier with which Tim Farron found himself colliding.

Often times, it is a fruitless effort to attempt to convince someone of a conservative disposition that their view on something such as the iniquity of homosexuality is fallacious. It is in the face of such restrictive and ostracising beliefs that it is most important to insist that these constricting views never wield any real clout in the political realm. Whether you care about them or not, politics and its tangential outcomes shape the lives of every citizen in every country across the world, and allowing such benighted personal views to enter the discourse of contemporary policymaking is unscrupulous. Religion, and, by virtue of extension, socially conservative values, should remain a personal and voluntary belief, and not an impingement on the rationality of an inclusive and democratic system of law and science.

Towards the end of the piece, Donnelly states that Christians have been made to feel unwelcome in politics, which ultimately led Tim Farron to step down. Donnelly is muddying the waters on this point. There is an inherent difference between making a person feel unwelcome and criticising their system of beliefs. Christians are not unwelcome in politics, but rather any discriminative convictions that their rhetoric may promote should be unwelcome. The contradictory statement in making Christians feel unwelcome in politics is laughable, considering it is a faith in which homosexuality is immoral, abortion under any circumstances is unforgivable, and the infallibility of their teachings as passed down by God is superior to judicious dialogue.

It is an irony that seems particularly resonant with people of strong faith. People of faith are not persecuted for identifying themselves as a certain faith – they are persecuted when their affixed beliefs defy the norms and conventions of an enlightened society in favour of those who believe to the detriment of those who do not, and so we can recognise that there is a crucial difference. If you are from Louth and happen to be a prick, (rational) people aren’t going to dislike you because you’re from Louth – they’re going to dislike you for being a prick. The same applies to those with socially conservative values – don’t be a prick.