Later this evening, the Northern Ireland football team will play their Russian counterparts at Windsor Park. Nothing particularly strange with this, it is a game that was put off from earlier in the year in March, when we had lots of snow. What is crossing my mind is how many Northern Ireland fans could show their support for tolerance and human rights by going with rainbow flags, or wearing something rainbow coloured to brighten up the home team’s support?
Why should we do this?
The simple reason is here in Northern Ireland we benefit from basic human rights that are currently under threat in Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin last month signed a law enacting a ban and maximum fine of 1 million rubles (£19,570 (xe.com)) on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. Foreign citizens charged under the law face 15 days in jail and deportation. Across the world this law is being condemned, is Northern Ireland going to stand by? What does our local culture minister think? I am sure that Carál Ní Chuilín would be one to stand by the LGBT people of Russia, as her party stood by the LGBT people of Belfast at Belfast Pride recently. It would at least be good to hear what our sportspeople and politicians thought of the Russian law. With the Winter Olympics in Sochi in Russia next year, and the FIFA World Cup set to be in Russia in 2018, there are many questions being asked about its implications.
Only last month, Belfast’s city hall was lit up by the city council to celebrate diversity in our society during Belfast Pride Festival. I feel sure that there are questions that can be asked by our local politicians and maybe by taking rainbow flags to Windsor Park tomorrow we will be able to raise awareness about Russia’s vile new law. Although Stephen Fry has been doing quite well at publicising it himself.