Sinn Fein councillor Lisa Marie Sheehy has called on her fellow members of Limerick City and County Council to support the campaign for marriage equality in Ireland.
The Glenroe-based representative also called for a “positive and progressive outcome in the upcoming referendum on same sex marriage, extending equal rights and opportunities to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community under law”.
Speaking at this month’s meeting of Limerick City and County Council, Cllr Sheehy pointed out that all couples, same sex or otherwise, should be entitled to the same obligations, right and privileges.
“Offering same sex couples civil partnerships is offering them second class rights,” she added.
Cllr Sheehy also told this month’s meeting of Limerick City and County Council that it was of the “utmost importance” that the Children and Family Relationships Bill was passed by the houses of the Oireachtas before the referendum took place to avoid having the two issues confused.
Councillors, she said, had a “significant part to play” in ensuring the referendum was passed, by acting as “allies” to the campaign for same sex marriage.
“We cannot be complacent,” she warned.
“As councillors, we will need to work together,” she added.
Her motion was seconded by Sinn Fein’s Séighin Ó Ceallaigh.
However, some of her fellow councillor expressed reservations about agreeing to any motion on the referendum.
Fine Gael’s Bill O’Donnell wondered if it was too early for members to take a position. “I do believe that, whatever the merits of the referendum itself, it is very early in the campaign to be bringing this to the floor of the chamber or asking the chamber to support it,” he said.
“I don’t believe this council should commit to either side of the debate,” he added.
Cathaoirleach Kevin Sheahan pointed out to him that Cllr Sheehy’s motion did not call on the council itself to take a particular position, but on councillors as individuals.
Cllr O’Donnell replied that he was looking forward to a “good debate” on the issue. “Presently I would be someone who thinks that the law and the constitution serve us well,” he said, adding however that “I might change my mind” in the course of the debate.
Cllr John Sheahan agreed that this was a “very emotive” issue.
“This issue is going to be decided by the people of Ireland. It will be debated and people are entitled to change their minds,” he said.
Supporting Cllr Sheehy’s motions, Cllr Cian Prendiville said there was an urgent need to reform the law on same sex marriage and on other related issues.
“As it stands, the law bans me and other men who have had sex with men from giving blood,” he said.
Also at this Monday’s meeting, Sinn Fein’s Malachy McCreesh received the unanimous backing from members the council for his motion seeking support for the Nurses and Mid-Wives Organisation (INMO) in their planned industrial action.
“A similar motion was passed by the members of the Metropolitan District last Monday and it is important that a message is sent loud and clear to the Government that the working conditions experienced by healthcare professionals at the emergency department at University Hospital Limerick is totally unacceptable,” he said.
“All of Limerick and its surrounding areas are affected by the daily crisis at the hospital. Bed closures due to staff shortages, coupled with an outdated and cramped working environment are the root causes of the problem. The risk to patients is clear and the situation is now at a critical state.”
Councillor McCreesh added that the “recent call by the INMO for the immediate recruitment of nurses nationwide should be acknowledged immediately and be treated as a major factor in finding an overall solution.”
A number of councillors suggested that a meeting should take place between the HSE and the council to discuss the situation.
“We need to hear from the people whose job it is to resolve this problem,” said Fianna Fail’s Michael Collins.
Cllr Seamus Browne (SF) said there was “no question” that a special meeting of the council should be called to discuss the issue.