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Gay Kiwi denied 1st C/wealth Sec. Gen. post

Tue 2 Oct 2007 In: New Zealand Daily News

One of New Zealand's most respected post-WW2 diplomats, the secretary for external affairs who created the NZ Foreign Service, was most likely kicked out of the running to become the first Secretary General of the re-vamped Commonwealth because of his homosexuality, research by James McNeish has revealed. Writing about Cold War purges of the early NZ Foreign Service in this month's North and South magazine, McNeish notes that Alister McIntosh was a closeted homosexual whose sexuality probably came to the attention of his political masters after he visited a Singapore gay bar in 1950. The bar was raided by British police. Fifteen years later, after protecting many fellow diplomats from generally unfounded charges of communism and 'unreliability,' reflections of McCarthy-style witch hunts in the USA and Britain, McIntosh's name was withdrawn from the top of the selection list after NZ Prime Minister Sir Keith Holyoake succumbed to British pressure. McIntosh had an exemplary record of service in WW2, spoke several languages and, ironically, amongst his many accomplishments as a senior civil servant was removing the vetting of security clearances from the Police, who had little expertise in the role, and creating a more professional security operation which became our Security Intelligence Service. He later served as NZ ambassador to Rome, was knighted in 1973 and died five years later. Until the late 1900s homosexuality, closeted or otherwise, was believed to make a person vulnerable to blackmail and many prominent gay westerners were secretly barred from high level public service or demoted if their homosexuality became known. By the 1970s attitudes to homosexuality vis a vis diplomacy and security risks had started to change and the first of several openly gay NZ diplomats subsequently posted abroad was author and poet Witi Ihimaera, who was posted to Canberra, New York and Washington DC.     Ref: North and South (j)

Credit: News Staff

First published: Tuesday, 2nd October 2007 - 8:49am

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