Dear Sir or Madam
I was an avid user of the museum before the lock-down, and in particular, the art galleries, and have really enjoyed the exhibitions over the last three years since my return from Spain, where I had been living for a year.
I was wondering though if it would be feasible to plan ahead and have some exhibitions to cover the areas of:
It is difficult to suggest areas which might be explored, as I have no idea what the current breadth of paintings and other artistic artefacts are held by the museum and its contemporary institutions which you could borrow from.
I am also very conscious of the terrible burden that the COVID 19 virus both in terms of finances and staffing, has had on institutions like yourselves.
I look forward to hearing from you in due time.
Today I received a lovely reply from the Ulster Museum.
Dear Mr McFarlane
Thank you for your interest and enquiry about future exhibitions. I have copied a number of colleagues into this reply so that your ideas and suggestions can be brought to their attention. If you would like to know more about the art collection at the Ulster Museum you can explore the Art UK website. Unfortunately as I am working remotely I can’t send you a link to this site on this email however I will try to send it separately.
With best wishes
What made this very satisfactory is that I made my first visit to the museum since ‘lock-down’. It was a surreal experience in that I had to book my visit first online, then on arrival, I had to queue to have my ticket validated and have the route explained as everything is one-way.
Obviously the standing exhibits have not changed, and whilst I did stop at one or two, I moved quickly on to see the art exhibitions which are always my main interest points.
In the main gallery, there is an exhibit of Ursula Burke ‘A False Dawn’ which is on display carried over from lock-down. Ursula’s work explores abuses of power in the social and political realms of the West (National Museums NI) The main room consists of busts and other individual pieces on separate stands. For me, it was interesting to look at the pieces and in particular the faces of what was white males and compare against that of the one black man’s head – the difference in the facial expression does stop you in your tracks and make you think.
There was another wonderful exhibition on art which had been produced before the realm of posters, postcards, television etc as a means of educating people about exotic places. Two striking pieces are those of Susanna Drury (fl.1733 – 1770) which she had painted of the Giant’s Causeway. It is even more poignant as the museum has pointed out that little is know about her.
However, some restrictions will remain, as the FDA said it favours replacing the blanket ban with a new policy barring donations from men who have had gay sex in the previous year.
Some gay activists have responded to the announcement by complaining it is unrealistic and stigmatises the LGBT community.
Having examined scientific evidence surrounding blood donation for men who have sex with men, the FDA said in a statement that it will recommend a change to the blood donor deferral period from indefinite to one year since the last sexual contact.
The current rule has been in place for 31 years and dates from the first years of the AIDS crisis, and was intended to protect the US blood supply from exposure to the little-understood disease.
Under the policy, blood donations are barred from any man who has had sex with another man at any time since 1977 — the start of the AIDS epidemic in the US.
But medical groups, including the American Medical Association, say that the policy is not supported by science, given advances in HIV testing.
Last month, a panel of blood safety experts convened by Department of Health and Human Services voted 16-2 in favour of ditching the lifetime ban, and recommended barring donors who have had male-on-male sex during the previous 12 months.
In the US, all donated blood is tested for HIV, however, the test only detects the virus after it’s been in the bloodstream about 10 days – allowing a brief window when the virus that causes AIDS can go undetected.
If the new advice is put into place, US law will be put in line with other countries including the UK (except Northern Ireland), Australia and Japan.
Patient groups that rely on a safe blood supply, including the National Hemophilia Foundation, have also voiced support for dropping the ban.
But LGBT campaigners say it does not go far enough.
“Some may believe this is a step forward, but in reality, requiring celibacy for a year is a de facto lifetime ban,” the organisation Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a New York-based nonprofit that supports AIDS prevention and care, said after the announcement.
The FDA will publish its advice in draft guidelines early next year, and will move to finalise them after taking comments from the public, officials said.
FDA Deputy Director Dr Peter Parks declined to give a deadline for the process but said, “we commit to working as quickly as possible on this issue.”
According to government figures, men who have had sex with other men represent about 2 percent of the US population, yet account for at least 62 percent of all new HIV infections in the US.
The recommendation is the culmination of a push for new policy which gained momentum in 2006, when the Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks, and America’s Blood Centers called the ban “medically and scientifically unwarranted.”
Additional reporting by AP
Out-take from Gay Star No. 2
July / August 1980
DO THE GAY ACTIVISTS ALLIANCE SUPPORT IAN PAISLEY ???
During the recent Gay Pride Week in London, members of the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association were attacked at a meeting organised by the Gay Activists Alliance by supporters of the Troops Out Movement who argued that we should not be making any demands for a change in the law. They said that the Government, which could make those changes, the Westminster Government, is a foreign Government which has no business legislating for Northern Ireland. By demand-ing changes in the law we are recognising the right of this foreign Government to rule over us.
It’s funny how one always has to go to London to hear arguments like that. No one here has ever suggested that we put our interests into cold storage until the great day when Mr. Haughey becomes our Prime Minister. Whether we want to see a united Ireland or maintain the union with Great Britain, the argument is stupid and only English people – or people who have been living a long time in England – could have thought of it.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTION
NIGRA is solely concerned with improving the lot of homosexuals in Northern Ireland. It contains members with nationalist sympathies and members with unionist sympathies. NIGRA as such will continue to work for gay people whatever government is in power. We don’t argue that our interests are necessarily more important than the Constitutional question, but we leave it to members who feel strongly on either side of that question to join whatever other political bodies they like, without their decision prejudicing their membership of NIGRA.
At present, Northern Ireland exists as a region governed by Westminster and separate from the Republic. There is no point in us asking favours from Mr Haughey who – in the unlikely event of his wanting to – can do nothing for us. Westminster is the government with which we have to deal. If that situation changes, we will change with it.
But perhaps our interests are affected by such ‘political’ considerations. One thing we can probably all agree is that we don’t want to be governed by Dr Paisley who has been very active in opposition to us. Paisley is very popular in Northern Ireland not because of his campaign against us, but because he has represented himself as the most hard line opponent of a united Ireland. And, rightly or wrongly, most of the people living here are strongly opposed to a united Ireland.
PAISLEY IN POWER?
Because of Paisley’s popularity, any devolved government in Northern Ireland – whether it is relatively powerless thing proposed by Humphrey Atkins [the then Secretary of State – upstart 2013] or a full-blown independent Parliament – is likely to be headed by Paisley. That is not a prospect that can fill us with delight. So we are not enthusiastic about the idea of having a devolved government in Northern Ireland.
Furthermore, although the law in the rest of the United Kingdom is far from satisfactory, it is still better than the law here and in the Republic (where, in both places, the pre-1967 laws are still in force).
We are therefore pressing for the same laws to apply throughout the UK. And in that general principle we have – according to a recent opinion poll – the support of over 90% of both Protestants and Catholics. For most people, homosexuality is a marginal issue and, in what they would see as the main issues, we have always had much the same legislation as the rest of the UK, since Stormont used to pursue a ‘step by step’ policy of keeping in line with Westminster. For example, we have the welfare legislation Labour introduced after the war [WW2 – upstart 2013] despite the fact that our largely Tory devolved government disliked it. Since there is no great desire for legislation that is very different from that passed at Westminster, it seems that, so long as we remain in the UK, there is no need for us to have any sort of devolved Parliament.
REMOVAL OF THE TROOPS
But the Troops Out supporters aren’t interested in such a modest, ‘reformist’ approach. They think that we should throw our interests as homosexuals to the winds, and lend all our support to efforts to get rid of the army (i. e. that we should join the Provisionals. Or possibly the Irish Independence Party [the ‘double-I’ P, now defunct. It, like the People’s Democracy, ‘kept the seats warm’ for Sinn Féin – upstart 2013] who are the only people who are calling immediate withdrawal of the troops). The likely result of the immediate withdrawal of the troops (after a period of open and vicious warfare) would be the establishment of an independent Ulster – with Paisley on top. If there were to be a united Ireland, the troops would have to enforce it. Is this what these people want? Is it what they think we should want?
No. We are not prepared to campaign for the removal of the troops. And we are even prepared to oppose the removal of the troops unless there is some guarantee that it won’t result in a (possibly smaller) Paisleyite state. And as long as we are in the UK, we want (at least) the same laws as far as homosexuals are concerned as prevail in the rest of the UK. In making this demand, we expect the support of everyone throughout the UK who is involved in gay politics. And we support them in their search for further changes. AS far as those of us who want to see a united Ireland are concerned, that no more compromises their principles than demanding better pay and conditions would compromise the principles of a trade unionist who wanted to see a united Ireland.
The only possible effect of the policy proposed by the Gay Activists Alliance would be to split us into a Republican Gay Rights Movement and a Loyalist Gay Rights Movement, both of them subjecting their particular interests as gays to the greater interest of their respective ’causes’. We are not prepared to oblige them.
Semi-editorial written, probably by Peter Brooke, then – 1980 – GS Editor.
(Out-take from upstart November 2000)
HISTORY RECALLED – The Letter That OUT did NOT print
Prince Street Station
PO Box 630
New York NY 1001
‘MANDY’ MANDELSON & NORTHERN IRELAND
In your January 2000 edition (issue 74) you carried an item about Peter Mandelson — the former Cabinet Minister, and Tony Blair favourite — being given the job of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It was strongly implied that we quaintly reactionary Ulster-folk would be horrified at having a ‘Sodomite’ sent amongst us, a notion gleaned from the self-consciously fashionable (and stupid) Gay publications produced in London. A city which is 55 minutes away from Belfast by plane, but several light years psychologically – think Manhattan and Juneau.
The response to Mandelson in Northern Ireland has been pretty muted, apart from the odd mildly satirical article about his spending the Christmas holiday with his Brazilian ‘friend’, with a local television personality who is also famously (and rather futilely) closeted. Gayness is simply not pass-remarkable in this part of the world anymore, partly due to the work of this organisation over nearly thirty years.
Other groups have of course played their part: the major one being Cara-Friend the befriending and welfare wing of the over-all Gay movement, which has helped tens of thousands of lesbians, gay men, bisexual, transsexual, transgender and transvestite people to come to terms with themselves, over the past quarter of a century. The Pride committees have also done a great deal to make the community come forward. 2000 will be Belfast’s Tenth LGBT Pride and all the stops will be pulled out to make it a memorable festival.
That might be difficult, because in 1999, Pride enjoyed talks from Bishop Pat Buckley on the ‘ethical’ aspect of being Gay, while Jeff Dudgeon (about whose struggle against the UK government at the European Court of Human Rights, BBC Radio 4 UK broadcast a dramatisation in November 1999) gave a workshop on Roger Casement’s wide and deep connections with Belfast. There was a Civic Reception in City Hall addressed by the Deputy Mayor Ms Marie Moore, and a half-hour programme shown on prime time television. There were many other events and workshops, a poetry -reading and an art exhibition among other things.
NIGRA since 1993 has organised solidarity actions with ILGO (the Irish Lesbian & Gay Organisation of New York) in its struggle against the bigotry of the AOHA (Ancient Order of Hibernians in America).
NI Gay Rights Association
[The above letter was sent in January 2000, by ‘snail-mail’, we think. The date ‘November 2000’ had to do with the erratic production of upstart, a private concern that depended on whether or not the people producing it were employed and in funds.]