Ireland, once a rock-solid Christian country, has now become so intolerant of Christian beliefs that its leading opponent of gay marriage may be forced to leave the country because of fears for his personal safety.
After repeated threats and obscene verbal attacks, John Waters, a nationally-known newspaper columnist, author and broadcaster who supports Christian family traditions, says he is now unable to go into the centre of Dublin at night because he fears for his own safety.
The attacks began after Waters threatened the state-owned broadcaster RTE with legal action after a drag queen called ‘Panti Bliss’ appeared on a television programme and called Waters and other conservatives “homophobic.”
RTE settled the action out of court in January, issued an apology and paid damages.
Waters said that at first he and the other conservatives who were subject to the slur were looking only for an apology and retraction. However RTE then refused to say in the apology that the comments made in its broadcast were ‘without foundation.’
According to a lawyer acting for Waters, staff at RTE spent two days in a fruitless internet trawl trying ‘to belatedly substantiate’ the claims of homophobia.
Waters received €40,000 in settlement. In an interview at the weekend with Ireland’s Sunday Independent newspaper he said he believes he could have received €4m from the national broadcaster if the libel proceedings had gone to a full hearing.
However, gay-rights activists and left-wing politicians have continued to criticise RTE for paying damages to Waters. The journalist has been the target of a campaign of abuse online and from the anti-Catholic left-wing both in the media and in the Dail, the Irish parliament.
In the interview Waters said his opposition to gay marriage and adoption was “about free speech. It is about the rights of people to speak about what is important without being demonised.”
He is now frequently subject to obscene abuse in shops and in the streets by people who, he says, “are cowards, they shout something and keep walking, they don’t want to engage.”
“I won’t go into Dublin city centre at night. When you have that kind of toxicity generated out of nothing, what are you going to do?”
He says he has become frightened “almost in a metaphysical way, that people could be so full of hatred. That, in accusing me of hatred, they could manifest a hatred infinitely greater than anything I could possibly imagine.”
Waters described how the backlash had damaged his health: “I lost nearly a stone in the first few weeks of this. I didn’t sleep.” He said he considered abandoning journalism and is still considering leaving Ireland to work elsewhere. “I have no friends in the media anymore.”
He said his lowest point was when he realised no one would speak out in his defence: “You have a certain hope that somebody, somewhere knows you for who your are, you kind of have some kind of naïve hope that one of these people are going to stand up and say, ‘hang on, this is wrong, this is not this guy’ and that moment never came.”