I didn’t know Tony Gregory but know enough about the politics of Dublin Central and Tony’s political history having lived in and around the constituency for the past 20 years to know that the raft of politicians who emerged to claim him as a friend and ally and work colleague were jumping on some very dodgy craft. The name of that boat was hypocrisy. And yesterday it was sunk.
When I heard Cllr. Maureen O’Sullivan had given a speech during the funeral I cheered – it was no ordinary speech and I really hope it’s published in full somewhere. Kathy Sheridan reported on the funeral in todays Irish Times and included some quotes from the speech.
So,” she asked to sustained applause, “how would he have dealt with certain politicians and their lavish tributes and praise in the last few days? Or those people speaking profusely about him in death, but during his life when he came looking for help, never so much as put a leaflet in a letterbox? I think they would all be getting the Gregory look – you know, the sardonic one . . .”
In fact, she implied, he had anticipated this. “At Tony’s wishes, the burial and after the burial are private. They are for his relatives, his close friends, canvassers and supporters who maintained their loyalty towards Tony over the years – and for those politicians, regardless of their politics, who had a genuine friendship with Tony over the years. His funeral is not a photo opportunity,” she said emphatically to a congregation headed by President Mary McAleese, Taoiseach Brian Cowen and former taoiseach and local TD Bertie Ahern.
I was aware that the Cedars and WBS in particular knew Tony well and have read with interest his posts on Tony and a honest obituary and in particular events around the funeral. Lots more in there including Tony’s atheism which was not what I read in other places.
I met Tony a few times and knew he was a strong supporter on lesbian and gay issues. I’m including a brief intervention he made in favour of the Labour Party’s Civil Union Bill during it’s debate in 2007 in which he notes the feelings of lesbians and gay men at the second defeat of the proposed legislation.
Deputy Tony Gregory: I thank the Labour Party for reintroducing this important measure and for sharing some of their time with me to allow me once again to put my position on the record. It now seems inevitable, unfortunately, that this measure will be defeated in the vote later this morning. It is ironic that if those Members of the House who voted for this measure in the last Dáil and were re-elected to the current Dáil were to vote for it again this time, it would be carried. This Bill will be lost today for a second time, but this time it will be lost due to the votes of people who spoke passionately in its favour on the previous occasion. In view of this, is it any wonder that politics is in such disrepute in this country?
I state my unequivocal support for the Civil Unions Bill 2006. It is a matter of civil and human rights. This Bill is a clear-cut, unambiguous measure which, if accepted, would advance equality by providing for the recognition and legal registration of civil unions. Although this Bill is being debated in the Dáil for a second time, it follows on the initiative of the great and courageous campaigner, Senator David Norris, who introduced his Bill in the Seanad some time ago to advance this issue. This Bill is concerned with respect for individual choice, which is surely the essence of equality. The vast majority of Irish citizens are ready to support this measure but regrettably the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government did not have the courage to allow it to progress on its first introduction. Now, although it is difficult to believe, the Fianna Fáil-Green Party coalition is again putting it on the backburner with the casual promise that the heads of a Bill will be completed by April 2008 but with no timeframe for legislation to be implemented. This cannot be acceptable to anyone who genuinely supports this measure. It is certainly not acceptable to me.
That this is happening a second time will be a heart-breaking disappointment for many thousands of people around the country. For reasons to which I have referred, the disappointment and disillusionment will be all the greater this time. The Bill may well have imperfections — very few Bills, Private Members’ or otherwise, ever prove to be perfect in the initial stages — but it is clear that if the Government had shown goodwill, this measure could have helped to bring a speedy end to the second-class citizenship conferred on so many of our people. It would have helped to ensure that all our citizens stand equal in the eyes  of the law. It is tragic that this will not now happen.