TANAISTE Joan Burton has said she is “taking nothing for granted” as she urged a Yes vote in the upcoming same-sex marriage referendum during a whistle-stop canvass of Limerick and Clare.
Her Labour colleague, Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan, also stressed the importance of getting out the vote on May 22 but was prepared to predict a Yes vote in Limerick City.
Matters could prove more difficult for the government parties in County Limerick, which – as Limerick West – has traditionally been among the more conservative constituencies. The 1995 divorce referendum, for example, scraped through in Limerick East with 50.1% but over 63% of voters in Limerick West rejected the proposal – the fourth highest No vote in the country.
A show of hands taken by Vincent Browne at last week’s People’s Debate in Rathkeale indicated a small majority would vote against same-sex marriage but Minister O’Sullivan has questioned how representative the audience was.
“The response has been very positive on the doorsteps and the challenge will be that people actually go out to vote. A lot of people we have engaged with are surprised at the idea that it wouldn’t pass. It is important to go out and vote and we need to ensure that people are motivated enough to go out and vote and ensure that it is passed with a comfortable percentage. Certainly, I think Limerick City should be in a positive mode in terms of the referendum,” Minister O’Sullivan said.
Since the constituencies commission made its recommendations in 2012, parts of County Limerick – including Murroe, Cappamore and Ballyneety – are back in the Limerick City constituency and Minister O’Sullivan said the response there had been “relatively positive” on extending marriage rights to everybody regardless of sexual orientation.
“But as with these referenda generally, the cities will probably have a higher Yes than the rural areas,” she said.
The Tanaiste urged young people in particular, who were “indicating strong support” to “carry that support right to the ballot box”.
Of the 1,000 or so Limerick voters who beat the deadline to get on the supplementary register this week, the majority had just turned 18 or were in their early 20s, according to Limerick City and County Council.
Minister Burton stressed that the change proposed “doesn’t take anything away from the constitution”.
“It simply adds an actual provision to the constitution, a short provision that marriage can be conducted in accordance with law without regard to the sex of the two people getting married. So it doesn’t take anything that is already there in the constitution in relation to the status of marriage.”
The Tanaiste also criticised postering by the No side.
“There have been posters which to be honest have been upsetting to people. There is a poster saying in relation to surrogacy, which has nothing to do with this referendum, that ‘no child wants to be with their mother for just nine months in the womb’.
“Since time began, people have been born in circumstances other than that of a perfect family per the No side.
“People have been widowed or widowered; they have been brought up by a parent on their own or perhaps by uncles and aunts. I think some of the No postering, as has happened in previous referenda on social issues, has been very negative but also concentrating on issues which in this case don’t have anything to do with the referendum.
“Surrogacy is an issue in Ireland, but mainly for heterosexual couples who are very often desperate to have a baby and it is one of the avenues they will resort to if available.”