Yesterday the DUP's Jim Wells declared in Stormont that Laura Lee was ''not a real sex worker, merely a front for the sex industry.'' Even by the often gutter level of Stormont politics, that was a new low.
Given that Wells and his DUP colleague Paul Givan researched Laura's website prior to her Justice Commitee appearance and questioned her at length on various aspects of her work, this statement is clearly a complete lie and Wells knows it. The obvious conclusion is that if Wells can so blatantly lie about this, how much of the other information regarding this bill can be believed? Yesterday yet again he spoke of ''women locked in cellars and apartments in Northern Ireland'' without one shred of evidence.
This bill, particularly clause 6 (now clause 15) has been concieved, manipulated and forced through as part of a DUP moral crusade. It has certainly had enthusiastic support from various NGOs and rather more grudging support from SF, UUP and the PSNI. But the DUP were the originators and are now pushing a new private members bill seeking to legalise discrimination against the gay community on the basis of ''religious conscience.''
The DUP are using Stormont to push their own prejudices against sexual issues they disapprove of, which is pretty much all of them. If allowed to continue, there would appear to be no limits to their censorship ambitions.
One thing Wells did admit yesterday was that no current sex workers (discounting Laura) had appeared before the commitee. Sex workers and clients have been very deliberately excluded from the debate and when QUB compiled a detailed report (which many of us here participated in) that actually got to the truth, it was completely dismissed by the usual suspects in Stormont. That report was commissioned by the Justice Minister and Alliance leader David Ford. In the event, Alliance were the only sizeable party to vote against clause 6, though Steven Agnew from the Greens and Basil McCrea from NI21 also deserve credit.
None of us here have been allowed official input on this legislation, but there is one thing we can still do. The QUB report suggested that there are around 17000 sex work clients in the North. That is a fair voting block. If each of those 17000 votes tactically at the next election (2015), the DUP could conceivably be damaged.
Most NI seats are safe, but four in particular could change hands this time round. They are three of the four Belfast seats and Fermanagh South Tyrone. In East Belfast in particular, the DUP are desperate to win this seat back from Alliance and are going to throw everything at doing so.
The constitutional question in NI has been solved for the forseeable future. The only reason for anyone to vote DUP these days is in approval of their policies. Anyone who is homophobic, opposes abortion in all circumstances, believes the earth is 6000 years old and doesn't care about the safety or rights of sex workers should certainly vote for them. Everyone else should go elsewhere. Staying at home on polling day achieves nothing. Casting a vote against can make a real difference.
The same principles are going to apply in the Republic as well. If it's true that around one in ten men have purchased sexual services, that group can make a difference on election day.
The passage of this bill and the methods used to push it through have exposed the kind of politicians and justice system we have. There is only one way to change that.