Archives for posts with tag: #marref

It all comes down to this. Do I want to live in a country that is accepting of people at a fundamental level, or would I prefer a place that is happy to continue a historical tradition of intolerance for those people who don’t quite fit?

For decades, Ireland was a country blemished by unhealthy attitudes towards those who couldn’t live up to standards that a comfortable majority had set for themselves. For those who did not conform, or could not do so, the realities of life were quite incredible. Wider society treated them with contempt – the orphaned, the unmarried mothers, the mentally ill, the sexual misfits – for them, our country was a barely more than a prison. Little wonder that many took the boat as soon as they had half a chance. Maybe it was the Famine that made us like this, or the Catholic Church, or the excessive nationalism of our country’s early years – whatever the reason, our recent history is obscured by shadows and skeletons.

This is not the Ireland I see around me today. Despite the trauma of our past, my gut tells me that we have grown as a nation. I like to think that our country has gone a long way to accept difference, whether that be religious, cultural, national, mental, racial or sexual. There is much humour, much love and much intelligence in our culture. We aspire to a fairer society that treats everyone as equals. Maybe I’m wrong, but I have a sense that I should be proud of this little nation. Hopefully, this impression can be copper-fastened on May 22nd.

If the country votes Yes, we will be the first country on the planet to give gay people the right to marry by popular mandate. It will send a message to the world that is much wider than the issue at hand. It will tell everyone that we really are a nation of a hundred thousand welcomes, and that’s no bad thing.

In opposition to this notion are people whose idea of a future Ireland is also much wider than the issue at hand. To them, extending marriage to gay people is just one more step in the secularisation of Irish society. Sure, they use fancy words and nuanced rhetoric, but I remember well the divorce and abortion referendums of the 1980’s and 1990’s, and I can tell you that their approach is always the same. It’s all just a big smokescreen, designed primarily to inject fear and suspicion into middle Ireland. It’s progress they are against and they will fight with tooth and nail every attempt to introduce positive changes to our society. Why else would they mount such implacable opposition to a legal change that will affect such a small number of people in our country?

I want Ireland to be open, accepting society that embraces change and difference. A positive outcome will be a massive step along the way. I am voting Yes.

“I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do”


The debate over the upcoming Marriage Referendum in Ireland continues to fascinate me. The NO campaign is largely driven by bishops, priests and spokespeople linked to the Irish Catholic church. In principle, the Church calls itself a beacon of humanity and compassion in the world. The utterances and actions of recent weeks belie such lofty aspirations. In doing so, they wilfully ignore a historic injustice they had some part in propagating and prolonging.

The past few centuries have not been kind to homosexual people. They have been bullied, scorned, laughed at, imprisoned, threatened with violence, assaulted, killed and gassed. Up to very recently, society saw them as deviants and predators and censured them accordingly. There was never any recognition that homosexuality was something you were born with; something you had little control over. The authorities at the time felt compelled to repress it and push it under cover. In doing so, countless lives were destroyed. We were driven to fear the enemy within.

Even to this day, governments around the world have laws against homosexuality. In Russia and Malaysia, gay people are routinely thrown in jail. In Uganda, legislators are trying hard to impose the death penalty for homosexuality. These malignant injustices are here with us today and, presumably, for a long time to come.

Surely this is a cause we should all support: for all members of our society to be given a chance, to be treated the same, to have past wrongs acknowledged and prevented. Unfortunately – despite the lip-service they pay to human rights – we are not seeing this from the elders of the Catholic Church.

You would think that any organisation professing to defend the downtrodden and the oppressed would see this referendum as an opportunity to provide positive leadership, but no. They have come out as dismissive, reactionary and uncaring; using precisely the same Jesuitic rhetoric in 2015 as the defenders of past injustices did back in years past. In all this debate they have forgotten whose side they should be on, preferring instead to champion ancient prejudices.

Not just one, but two generations have been alienated by such pronouncements. What we have is an organisation arguing itself into obsolescence, not caring about the consequences or how such views will be perceived by future generations. Not in our name, we say. Some day in the future, a pope will issue an apology for these wrongs, but by then it will be far too late.

via GraphJam

via GraphJam

Over the past month, media of all hues has been awash with commentary on the upcoming Marriage Referendum. By and large, it’s been a one sided debate. Most commentators I have seen are firmly pro-marriage equality. They are facing off against a much smaller No campaign dominated, in the main, by oddballs.

The rhetoric of the No campaigners is dominated by conservative religious doctrines and anti-gay fear mongering that would seem more at home in the 1970’s. With their talk of cancer rates, marrying your granny and allowing homosexuals to marry (so long as it’s the opposite sex) the only good they are doing is to expose themselves as bigots. They do no justice to their cause. Ironically, they may even be recruiting sergeants to the Yes camp – forcing people who would not ordinarily vote to cast their ballots.

In my opinion, the crank commentators are not the problem. I expect that the referendum outcome will be a solid Yes, however I also suspect that somewhere between 25% and 35% of the population will vote No – a depressingly high statistic given the paucity of charisma and rational arguments from the anti-amendment side.

No, the real battle is not against the extremists. The group the Yes campaign need to pay most attention to is the unaffected, the smug and the unconcerned.

Put it this way: there are still a lot of people in Ireland who are not knowingly familiar with LGBT people. Where they have gay friends, they may not be aware they are gay. To them, homosexual issues have no real relevance to their lives. Their views on homosexuality will, of course, depend on the person, but in many cases I suspect it may be informed by nothing more than lazy prejudices – that two men kissing is ‘yucky’, or that homosexual sex is gross, or we didn’t have any of that when we were growing up, or something of that ilk. And that’s about as much thought as they will have put into these issues. Because of the lives they lead and the friendship networks they have, marriage equality is a non-issue.

I suspect this is quite a large cohort of people. They will go to the polls and vote No, not because the Catholic bishops told them to, or because the Iona Institute had some fantastically compelling arguments, but because they would prefer their world to stay the same.

The real battle is against the smug. It will be a difficult job to change many of these mindsets in the run up to the vote, but appealing towards greater acceptance of different walks of life will help. A positive approach that promotes tolerance and common justice may be more persuasive than constantly chasing the extremists around the pages of social media.

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