Friday, 15 May 2015

Yes Equality

"Yes Equality" badge (in Irish)
Be my guest. You may read this blog from 'cover to cover', from November 2006 to now if you insist, but you will find very little politics in it. I have posted recently that political issues do not get any space here although, behind the scenes, Liz particularly can sometimes get quite engaged and does the all-nighters on election nights. Full engagement does happen occasionally - we are not hermits and we feel acutely our democratic responsibilities. Liz went marching round London for the Not-In-My-Name anti-war demos, for example but these are the exception rather than a full time 'hobby'.

At the 'Yes Equality' open public meeting.
I make an exception this time for an issue which has us both engaged, that of the imminent Constitutional Referendum on Equal Marriage rights. I should quickly add that I am no expert and am only recently 'over here'  and, further, I am here giving you my own personal opinions which may not match even Liz's, let alone our wider circle. Feel free to comment on this blog if you like. UK readers may also be unaware that this republic, unlike the UK, has a written constitution agreed and installed in 1937 which can only be changed by a Public Referendum in which the government itself cannot even take sides.

Ireland has been chugging along following the rest of Europe through the stages towards Gay Rights and modern marriage law (legalizing divorce, allowing Civil Partnerships and so on) but is always held back by a strong Catholic Church influence, with congregations of Mass-goers often being preached at from the pulpit about which way to vote. Homosexuality was only de-criminalised as recently as 1993 and the Divorce Referendum finally squeaked through positive by a margin of 50.3% to 49.7%. Currently if you are gay, you are allowed to have a Civil Partnership but not the full monty, actual 'Marriage' as defined in the Constitution. These referenda have lately gone with the youth-filled cities voting one way, while the rural areas have often resisted the changes and our local bar-man was chatting to us last night about how all the young ones had left the village for Canada and Australia so that it'd would have to be a "city vote" again to count.

The Church is hanging onto its waning influence as hard as it can but the country is slowly leaving it behind and it has done itself no favours in terms of clinging to the moral high ground with the recent revelations about the appalling treatment of single mothers by the "Magdalene Laundries" and the official cover-ups of child abuse by priests. The Catholic church was never an official 'Established' church but it has been to all intents, so that Government leaders have become anxious to distance themselves - The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) says he is a Leader who happens to be a Catholic, rather than a Catholic Leader.

As with all these issues, one big problem will be voter apathy. Liz was showing me that even in the UK General Election just passed, the result went the way it went largely because the Labour voters did not bother to head for the polling stations; the maps of who DIDN'T vote constituency by constituency were as revealing as the maps of who did! That is where we might come in. I am a Brit. so I am not allowed to vote in this one but we are allowed to fight for 'our side' by supporting their efforts and canvassing to try to get the people out who are wavering on whether it is worth voting.

The beech trees in the pig area come
into full leaf.
We have gay friends and gay relatives as well as knowing plenty of young ones who might turn out to be gay and/or who will have children who will inherit the results of these votes. We can not bear that anyone is treated as a second class citizen; lesser people if you like. "We are straight and have designed this Marriage thing but it is too good for the likes of you, so you can have this nearly-as-good Civil Partnership?" In the Constitution, Marriage gives many rights, especially around those of bereaved or separated partners, which are denied to Civil Partners. Civil Partnership is a construct in Law outside the Constitution. As Kevin Cross, the Chair of the Independent Referendum Commission says, "Civil Partners only have legal protection. Legal protection is something that can be changed, amended, whittled down by act of the (Government)". Many people would be thinking that you would only need a Catholic 'fundamentalist' to get into a government position and suddenly their 'piece of paper' is in shreds. So the Referendum is down to one simple change, that the Constitution be changed by the addition of the sentence, "Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex". Polling is next Friday, 22nd May. We will be watching the count (on 23rd) with interest. What ever next - voting rights in Referenda for we 2nd-class non-nationals?


Anne Wilson said...

Well said Matt, most of our gay friends have been together longer than we have, why should they be denied equality? I think one of the nicest weddings we ever went to was of two dear friends in Spain, the service was very moving.

Matt Care said...

Thanks for that, Anne. We seem to be in good company. Ursula Halligan (Political Ed for TV3) 'came out' yesterday in a beautifully moving article in the Irish Times ( )prompted by the Referendum and then, later, even Daniel O'Donnell (everyone's Gran's fave crooner) went public on his suppport for the Yes 'vote'. All the country has to do now is convert all that good feeling into yes votes.