Limerick mayor supports gay marriage - but council colleagues against it

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

MAYOR Gerry McLoughlin was at the centre of a political row last night after he indicated he would seek councillors’ support in a vote to back gay marriage.

MAYOR Gerry McLoughlin was at the centre of a political row last night after he indicated he would seek councillors’ support in a vote to back gay marriage.

But immediately, a number of Fine Gael councillors expressed concerns over the plan, designed to put pressure on the government to legalise the marriage of same-sex couples.

After Cork City Council joined Belfast City Council in backing gay marriage, Mayor McLoughlin has said he will approach party leaders at City Hall with a view to debating the matter at an autumn meeting.

He has been backed by Sinn Fein’s northside councillor Maurice Quinlivan, whose party lodged the motion in Cork. Fellow Labour councillor Tom Shortt is also supportive.

But Cllr Michael Hourigan, Cllr Cormac Hurley and Cllr Jim Long have expressed concerns the motion may not get cross-party support.

Despite this, Mayor McLoughlin may broach the subject as early as today when party leaders meet.

“Being gay is natural. I have many gay friends, and it is normal at the end of the day. They are no different from anybody else.”

He confirmed that he will speak to fellow councillors and see if they are willing to endorse it.

“Then I will think about running with it. But I’d like the views of all the council members, because it will have to be passed by a majority,” he said.

When contacted by the Leader, a number of councillors declined to comment publicly on the matter.

However, northside Fine Gael councillor Hourigan said he will support the wishes of his own party.

But on a personal level he has mixed feelings.

“I can see problems arising for people in this situation, and it can become very difficult for them. There are arguments on both sides, but what it comes down to is the [recognition of] children, and this is the most important matter,” he said.

Cllr Hurley simply said: “I would not be in favour of this. I won’t go into the reasons though.”

Cllr Long said he is keeping “an open mind” on the issue.

“It could divide a lot of people: we should take the views of the majority into account. I know it was passed in Cork, but where do we stop being politically correct,” he asked.

Cllr Maria Byrne gave a cautious welcome to the idea, while Cllr Quinlivan said he would approach the Mayor personally on the matter.

“I would hope any motion gets majority support in the council. It will put the government under pressure to enact the legislation,” he said.