The question being asked in Ireland today is not whether the Government will win its ill-considered referendum asking its people to redefine marriage as a bond between people regardless of their sex, but whether it can long outlive the defeat of this proposal.
The Irish people are a warm-hearted lot but they are not irrational. Among the countries of Europe most tried by the debacle of the financial melt-down in the last decade, they were the ones who resisted the emotional response and knuckled down to sort it out. All observers now give them credit for this. The only rage which they gave vent to was in the face of another piece of gross mismanagement by their Government when it muddled its way through the realignment of the country’s water utility.
Despite what very suspect opinion polls – conducted through cell-phone users in many cases – are telling us, the writing on the wall for Prime Minister Enda Kenny and his ministers is ominous. It has been a bad week for them – and it is still only Wednesday.
On Monday their star spokesman and campaign leader, Minister Simon Coveney, was pummelled on television by the reasoned legal and social policy arguments of his podium opponent, Senator Ronan Mullen, and pro-marriage supporters in the studio audience. He could not answer any questions convincingly and was left plucking emotional strings. His efforts, combined with similar responses from the pro-redefinition segment of the audience, did nothing but show that there simply are no rational arguments which can be advanced for this proposal, riddled as it is with inconsistencies.
Yesterday the Irish Times – now beginning to redeem itself in some eyes as an even-handed communicator of news and opinion – carried op-eds on the issue from two expert witnesses – to employ a legal metaphor – exposing the deep flaws in Government policy. Emeritus Regius Professor of Law in Trinity College, Dublin,William Binchy, exposed the fallacies in the Government’s arguments that the passing of this referendum would have no impact of the State’s child welfare laws. In the other piece, another former Trinity academic, sociologist and constitutional expert, Dr. Anthony Coughlan, argued that the impact of a ‘Yes’ vote would have repercussions beyond Ireland’s shores. By effectively nullifying a protocol won by Ireland under the Lisbon EU Treaty, the passing of the referendum could lead to same-sex marriage becoming an undeniable human right throughout all 28 EU states. For many this suggests that the entire project, funded as it is by international gender ideologists, is a Trojan Horse designed to destroy marriage across the European continent.
That was yesterday. Today we have news of another own-goal by the Government itself. The lead story in the online Irish Times this morning covers the retrospective withdrawal by a Government quango of funding for the Catholic Church’s marriage advisory council, ACCORD. Despite the attempt to dress this up as routine cost-cutting, the ineptly handled decision makes the Government look every inch the draconian agents that they are. People have been reminded that the Minister for Children – whose brief this comes under – is the same man who as Minister for Health two years ago shepherded the Government’s abortion legislation through parliament. After a thoroughly undemocratic exercise, he reminded Catholic hospitals that their funding would be cut if they did not implement that legislation as law required. He is now trying to tell people that the cutting of ACCORD’s funding has nothing to do with plans to redefine marriage. Good luck to him.
Add to this the truly scathing letter in this morning’s Irish Times from one of the country’s leading liberals, Emeritus Professor of History in University College Cork, John A. Murphy. It is not just the razor-sharp content of this letter which will dismay the Government. It is the fact that it comes from one of the country’s most respected historians, that he is one who has often been highly critical of the Catholic Church, and that his liberal credentials are impeccable.
Finally, after a flood of “Yes” endorsements from a range of celebrity sports stars, media people and pop stars, most of it mindless gushing of emotion, comes a very reasoned argument from one of the stars of Ireland’s most popular and most participative sport, Gaelic Football, the first cousin of Australian Rules Football. This comes from Dublin star, Ger Brennan, and again makes front page news in the largest circulation morning paper in the country, the Irish Independent.
Brennan writes, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that everybody is equal in dignity and it holds that marriage is a male-female union. I don’t think the Declaration of Human Rights is homophobic. I’m voting ‘No’”. Brennan’s well argued declaration, exuding respect for his gay friends and playing companions, will speak to his generation in a way that will worry a Government that thought it had that constituency in its grasp. This will put a serious dent in the Dublin metropolitan vote, as will Murphy’s in the second largest metropolitan area, Cork.
But the most significant element in all these interventions in the debate is not just that they question this proposal. It is that they place a massive question mark in people’s minds about the general competence of this Irish Government.
Michael Kirke blogs at Garvan Hill, where this article was first published.