Taoiseach Enda Kenny has called for a calm and compassionate debate regarding the gay marriage referendum. The Taoiseach has also shown strong support for the cabinet decision on the referendum.
Discussion of the referendum has re-opened as a result of drag queen Rory O’Neill’s (also known as Panti Bliss) appearance on The Saturday Night Show on January 11th. While being interviewed by host Brendan O’Connor, O’Neill alleged that some involved in Irish journalism and media where homophobic. RTÉ was threatened with legal action by those mentioned and the clip was removed from the video on the RTÉ Player. Two weeks later O’Connor apologised to those O’Neill mentioned on the show on behalf of RTÉ. It then emerged RTÉ paid out €40,000 to journalist John Waters and €45,000 to members of the Iona Institute. O’Neill is now seeking an apology from RTÉ for the statement O’Connor read out on The Saturday Night Show.
The night of the on-air apology, O’Neill took to the stage and made a rousing speech at the Abbey Theatre about his feelings of oppression and to recount his feelings of the incident. The video has over half a million views and quickly spread after it was shared on Twitter by celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Graham Norton. Even Madonna sent a supportive email to O’Neill after hearing it.
Declan Faulkner, Chairperson of DCU LGBTA society said it was a vital event “for shedding light on the hatred still widely perpetrated by people within Ireland. Despite legal leaps being made in terms of civil partnership and soon marriage equality there exists a backwards stubborn sentiment to Irish society that is homophobic”.
The referendum on gay marriage is expected to be held by the summer of 2015 and will include other possible constitutional changes, such as the reduction of the voting age to 16. The proposed referendum will allow same-sex couples the right to full marriage as opposed to current civil partnership. It will also recognise same-sex marriages which occurred outside the country before its introduction, such as those held in the UK.
Sean Rooney, Secretary of DCU Labour said his party have been speaking with Tanáiste Eamon Gilmore throughout the office of the current government “to ensure that marriage equality is achieved in the lifetime of the government”. Gilmore expressed it would be important to win this referendum and preparation beforehand is necessary to achieve this. Rooney said he personally felt that the Pantigate scandal has been “a distraction from the real debate, which needs to be about full rights for same-sex couples”.
Faulkner explained how the LGBTA society is highly supportive of this upcoming referendum as “we believe it is an inherent human right for people who are in love to have the legality of true marriage.”
Dr Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, added his voice to the debate recently saying some in the Catholic Church may be homophobic but the church must be careful not to use its teaching in this way in the upcoming debates. He said people must be able to freely express their views on issues like this while remaining respectful to avoid offence and added how it is up to the person offended to define what offence is.