Homeopathic Sweets: There is Evidence of That

It is a good day for those who believe in science and achieving hard evidence in order for something to be suggested as “medicine”. According to Martin Robbins in the Guardian many of the homeopathic products currently manufactured for use by the general public are illegal and this doesn’t please the manufacturers, pharmacies, or registered homeopaths. Since much of their life’s work is based on nothing, if they were forced to reveal that, in fact, homeopathic medicines are in fact not scientifically sound medicine, it may be bad for business.

Under current UK law*, it is an offence for a lay homeopath to supply or sell unlicensed homeopathic medicines for which they do not hold a certificate of registration from the MHRA. Unlicensed remedies can only supplied by those with prescribing rights – medical doctors or registered pharmacists – and then only after a face-to-face consultation with the patient. Since very few homeopathic products are licensed, this means a huge swathe of Big Sugar’s products are, in theory at least, not legal.

Cancer Research UK has a simple definition:

“Homeopathy is based on the theory of ‘treating like with like’. So to treat an illness a homeopathic therapist (homeopath) uses tiny doses of a substance that in large doses would actually cause the symptoms of the illness. Homeopathic remedies are made from plant, mineral and animal substances. They are diluted in water and shaken vigorously many times until there is little, if any, of the original substance left. The water is used to make homeopathic liquid (drops), pills or creams. Homeopaths believe that the original substance somehow leaves a molecular blueprint in the water that triggers your body’s healing mechanisms.”

One of the major pharmacies, Helios, who supply the majority of remedies in the UK, were told in September 2011 by the MHRA, who regulate homeopathy in the UK, to “discontinue the sale and supply” certain homeopatic remedy kits as “kits contain remedies that are not registered or authorised.”

In response to this Helios said:

If necessary we could revise the manufacturing method, the labelling of the bottles and kit box to present them as non-medicines and non-homeopathic and market them as ‘confectionery’. Customers who have an interest in homeopathy would still know how to use them and would continue to purchase them despite limited labelling. There would of course be media repercussions and uncontrolled sources appearing and confusion among the public and MPs who would demand a full explanation for the change.

This is an option which our customers would support if it ensured a continuation of the supply of kits until they are fully licensed.

In short, the manufacturer of homeopathic remedies would like to conceal the fact that what they are producing is simply sugar pills, by labelling them as sugar.

What Pride Means to Me by Laura McKee

laura mckeeLaura McKee is a 29 year old single mum to four year old Abbie. Working full time and studying part time keeps her busy, but she also has a deep passion for LGBT rights and supporting Belfast Pride.

Pride Parades and Festivals around the world began to happen in the wake of the Stonewall Riots in New York, 1969. For whatever reason, during that period, gay men and women decided enough was enough of being forced underground and bullied by the police, and fought back during a raid on the Stonewall Inn. Pride Parades are held in commemoration of this and also to continue the fight for full inclusiveness and equal rights.

For many, Pride is seen as an excuse to go out and party, and whilst it is a fun time, for me and many others it means a little more. It makes me angry when members of the non-LGBT community say things like “why do you have to parade about it?” or “we don’t have a ‘straight’ pride?” There will always be a need! Even if full equality is reached in every corner of the earth, the need to celebrate and remember those who fought for it will still be there. What annoys me more is when people that are LGBT, say they don’t support Pride, for without it, and the people that are the real backbone of this community, they wouldn’t have the relative freedom that we enjoy here today.

I first began fundraising for Belfast Pride in 2011 with a 12 hour sponsored silence. The idea began as a bit of a joke given that I never shut up. However, for me it had a serious undertone; highlighting the forced silence of many LGBT people around the world. There are still countries where homosexuality is “punishable” by death or imprisonment. Whilst we are not just as horrific as that in Northern Ireland, unfortunately homophobia is alive and well. With politicians being free to go on television commenting on my right to marry, and likening my personal relationship to that of having sex with an animal there is a greater need than ever to march on the streets of Belfast every summer.

Volunteering for Belfast Pride has been great for me on a personal level. I had come out of a long term abusive relationship and needed to repair my confidence and meet new people. The sense of community with my new friends and acquaintances was astounding and just the right medicine. I soon became a bit of a “scene queen” and the fundraising helps me feel like I’m giving something back. This year I have raised almost £2000 from a ‘solo silent disco’ and relentlessly pounding the dance floors in the clubs: not socialising but selling glowsticks to the revellers.

Above all, nothing can describe the feeling I get on parade day. Last year I cried with emotion the whole route, and more recently did the same when joining with our friends on the Dublin Parade. Seeing the smiling faces, and hearing the applause of support as the parade progresses, is just beautiful. Yes there are still protests, and there is still progress to be made, but in comparison to the thousands of people that take to the streets in support I guess we aren’t going anywhere. In fact this year is set to be bigger and better than ever, I will probably still cry and the fight for equality will still rage on long after the last tear has dried and the hangover clears.

Got Pride? by Stephen Donnan

Stephen donnan

Stephen Donnan is a youth worker, community worker, Alliance Party activist and LGBT /civil rights campaigner based out of Belfast, Northern Ireland. He spends his time between East Belfast, North Down and Lurgan. He has have worked in the voluntary sector for some time now, having done work with Cara-Friend, The Rainbow Project, Belfast YMCA, the HIV Support Centre, Parkinson’s UK, Make-A-Wish and PIPS.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending Northern Pride in Newcastle-Upon Tyne. I was shown around the town by a friend, the sun was blazing and the cider was ice cold, so we decided to take part in the parade. As we joined the throngs of revellers waving rainbow flags alongside drag queens and carnival creations I couldn’t help but notice that one thing was lacking from the parade route: protesters.

Yes that’s right, I couldn’t get my head round why this parade was going so smoothly, why were there no pickets along the street? Beside city hall? Outside the churches we passed? I looked several times and couldn’t see them, concluding that I must have missed them. I asked my friend if there had been protesters ever before and she looked at me as though I was nuts. I guess coming from Belfast you tend to expect certain things that other places consider bizarre, such as Christians protesting an LGBT Pride march.

Every year the Sandown Presbyterian Church sends a delegation to hold placards reading slogans about Sodom and Gomorrah, telling us that we are all going to Hell, that we are an abomination. These people aren’t alone, for their views are shared by many, including our very own First Minister.

Stephen at Northern Pride

As part of the UK, Northern Ireland has a track record for being the worst country in the British Isles for LGBT rights, being the last nation in the Union to lift the ban on homosexuality in 1982. Direct Rule brought us protection against workplace discrimination based on who we love, equal access to IVF treatment, the right to change legal gender, the ability to serve openly in the military, legal protection from hate crime, rights of access to goods and services and the first Civil Partnerships took place in Belfast in 2004. But this myriad of equality legislation stopped as soon as the Northern Ireland Assembly was re-established in 2007.

Our Health Minister, Mr. Edwin Poots MLA and member of the DUP, has recently refused to lift the ban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood, despite his counterparts in Scotland, Wales and England replacing the ban with a 12 month deferral period. Due to the nature of legislation in place, same-sex couples in a Civil Partnership are forbidden to adopt children and raise a family and future Health Minister Jim Wells MLA described those taking part in Belfast Pride as ‘repugnant’, and the issue of same-sex marriage has drawn a line in the sand for political parties in NI as Scotland, England and Wales all have plans to legislate in favour of such a measure.

With Belfast Pride less than a week away, can we really call it Belfast ‘Pride’? For what does NI have to be proud of when it comes to the LGBT community? Our Assembly hasn’t passed a single piece of legislation in its five years that enshrines the rights of the LGBT community in law. The Grand Master of the Loyal Orders (which also forbids Catholics from joining) recently declared that they are opposed to equal marriage as it will do ‘untold damage to civilization as we know it.’

US President Obama: First President to endorse same-sex marriage

Though things are changing slowly but surely. More Governments than ever are moving to legalise same-sex marriage, such as Scotland, New Zealand and even Vietnam. The USA has seen a massive swing in support for the issue, as President Barack Obama told the world earlier in the year that he was in favour of marriage equality, and his party (The Democratic Party) are set to officially endorse the move. Our neighbours, the Irish Republic, look set to legalise same-sex marriage some time in the next five years as all major political parties have adopted positions in favour of the measure.

The NI Executive recently launched ‘Our Time, Our Place’ as a means of celebrating all of the events taking place in NI this year, such as the Titanic commemoration, the Irish Open or the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant. With the world changing around it, Northern Ireland will have to move with the times or face the prospect of losing its modern image of peace, inclusiveness and equality. While things right now aren’t as good as they should be, progress can be frustrating or unprecedented in its speed, however, progress is progress and it should be welcomed. Both Belfast City Council and Omagh Council have both passed motions declaring their support for same-sex marriage. The Department of Employment and Learning is now funding a project aimed at raising awareness of the difficulties LGB people face in the workplace and Belfast Pride remains the largest LGBT festival in Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the EU, and I believe it also only a matter of time before the European Court of Human Rights recognises the right of marriage between same-sex couples, and Northern Ireland’s homophobic political parties and organisations will have to realise that they can no longer stand in the way of equality and progress.

Things aren’t as good as they could be, but they are better than ever before.

Pride Talks Back 2012

pride talks back
From left: Gavin Robinson (DUP), Martina Anderson (Sinn Fein), Anna Lo (Alliance), Steven Agnew (Green Party), Conall McDevitt (SDLP) and Michael Copeland (UUP)

On Wednesday evening Belfast Pride hosted its annual Pride Talks Back debate with local politicians. The main story from the event is not so much in its content, but simply the fact that a small bit of history was made in the presence of a DUP representative, Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson, who chose to take part. Not to dismiss the bravery of Gavin Robinson to turn up and give his opposing, “alternative”, view on LGBT issues, it should also be noted that DUP should not have taken so long to take part in such debate as it is their job to represent the public. The other members of the panel were Martina Anderson (Sinn Fein), Anna Lo (Alliance), Steven Agnew (Green Party), Conall McDevitt (SDLP) and Michael Copeland (UUP).

The first question presented to the panel was: ‘Do you support change in the law to introduce equal marriage?’ It was only the DUP representative who responded with a definitive “no”. Michael Copeland stated that his “…party view is that we believe in equality…”, Steven Agnew said, “We pro-actively support the right to same-sex couples to marry.” Martina Anderson: “Sinn Fein are driving the change and motion to councils.” Anna Lo: “The party sees it as an important issue.” She also stated that party leader, David Ford, does support marriage equality, and that the issue is due to be discussed at a forthcoming party meeting on 1st September.

Gavin Robinson jokingly stated:
“This isn’t an issue that the DUP try to take ownership over.” In answer to the question: “No, neither personally, nor as a party.” He added that he has set himself up to engage with “every aspect of our society and all people.” yet he did make it clear that “we won’t always agree.” He then proceeded to repeat the religious rhetoric that he believes in “marriage as a foundation,” that he “believes in the biblical definition of marriage: between a man and a woman, that it has a “scriptural basis.” On civil partnerships he said that “they are there, and are the law. We didn’t agree at the time and we still don’t.” In response to someone from the floor Gavin said, “No matter how passionately you express your opinion… it doesn’t dilute the definition of marriage.”

Throughout the event Michael Copeland was a voice for equality:

“Why do we make things complicated which are so very simple: Every person is equal. I would never associate myself with a group who says ‘you are different’.
“In the past people were persecuted because of religion, political affiliation, gender, race etc.”

Gavin responded to this by saying that, “Michael’s note has been the least helpful,” reiterating that he doesn’t believe that anyone here is “less than” him, “if I thought anyone in this room was less than me, I wouldn’t be here.”

For the most part of the evening Gavin sat emotionless. Often with his arms folded, looking down at the table, away from the other panel members, or towards his empty water glass. He rarely smiled, and didn’t applaud any comments made by the panel or members of the audience.

William Crawley, who did a great job as always in chairing the event. Not afraid to ask difficult questions, repeat or clarify the points made by the panel, and bring his own wealth of knowledge to the debate. He asked of Gavin, “Should the bible be implemented in law: a theocracy?” To which his response was simply to repeat that he believes “marriage to be between a man and a woman.”

When asked whether he agrees with colleagues that homosexuality is comparable to “bestiality” and “pedophilia”, as well as those who have described it as “sodomy” and an “abomination” Gavin stated, “I believe in freedom of speech, providing it doesn’t lead to hate crime. I don’t think that it is crossing the line…”

The thing is, this is not simply “freedom of speech” as it is damaging and by not condemning this language it does lead to hate crimes against people who take it on board. As Fidelma Carolan of Unison stated, “Words have a great impact. People agree with them… Families may talk about it over dinner… these words can lead to children self-harming…”

On the issue of the recent continued ban on donations of blood by gay people by Health Minister Edwin Poots, Steven Agnew stated that he believes the “decision is based on religious views”, while Gavin Robinson responded that it is “based only on scientific consideration,” however full scientific evidence of this is yet to be brought forward by the health minister. Anna Lo brought up the point that we need more blood in Northern Ireland.

This debate was necessary, and the presence of the DUP shows a certain amount of progress. It isn’t long ago that a DUP member would not have sat beside a Sinn Fein member, let alone discussing LGBT issues. The very fact that there was opposition in the room, bringing to the debate an “alternative” view, is progress, and such opposition appearing at debates should always take place, without fear. However, there is a lot more discussion that needs to take place within the DUP, and in Stormont as a whole. Education is a huge issue, and, as Duane Farrell, chair of The Rainbow Project, said “homophobia in schools is a bigger issue than equal marriage, as it has bigger impact.”

Hopefully this is the start of a much larger debate which the DUP will engage in. We must remind ourselves that they are the the largest party in Northern Ireland and represent the largest number of people, of all backgrounds, and that they must do their job to represent every member of our society. Using biblical text, taken out of context, and where there is little consistency, is not how any democratic government should be run.