Gay marriage debate tensions erupt on radio
IT is many months away, but already the claws are out in the first public Marriage Equality referendum debate.
Senator Ronan Mullen accused TD John Lyons of trying to "demonise" him live on air.
He was responding to suggestions that he couldn't look Mr Lyons "in the eye" during a heated debate about gay marriage.
The Taoiseach this week told the Dail that the Marriage Equality referendum will take place in spring 2015.
And Labour TD John Lyons and Independent Senator Ronan Mullen locked horns when they aired their views on the referendum.
Dublin North West TD John Lyons is openly gay and said that the referendum is "ultimately about equality". He said that civil partnership was a "momentous leap forward" for society, but that the final step was necessary.
"How can we have a society that essentially says 'Because of your sexuality we will treat you differently'?" he asked.
"Marriage is that last institution at the moment - that allows inequality.
"It is saying that you do not treat me right because of my sexuality.
"You are saying that there is something different about me and in fact you are not affording me the same rights as a civil marriage affords."
Independent Senator Ronan Mullen said that it wasn't the "burning issue" in Irish society.
"I favour the current definition of marriage," he said.
"It would be easy for me to say yes to whatever anyone wants."
"I believe the current definition of marriage is around the protection of children.
"The meaning of marriage itself has to do with the relationship between men and women because that's the socially preferred context for the upbringing of children.
But when he was asked by Newstalk's Ciara McDonagh to provide a reason why Mr Lyons, as a gay man, cannot marry the person he loves, Mr Mullen initially stumbled for an answer, Mr Lyons said: "You can try look at me, Ronan as you answer it. I'm a human being here. I'm a human being."
However, Mr Mullen responded: "Don't demonise me John, I smile at you and address you every day of the week in Leinster House," he said.
"What I'm absolutely not going to allow happen is to insist on professionalism.
"The suggestion that I can't look at you in the eye is an absolute lie.
"You've come to my door and I've treated you with the utmost courtesy."
"I'm not just saying this on my own behalf. I'm a tough nut and I want to ensure that decent people aren't frightened out of this debate because they'll be made to look like bad people."
The Labour TD agreed that a measured debate was required.
"We need a decent and respectful debate on this," he said.
"But we should be open and honest and frank and robust and challenge people on their views.
Mr Mullen added: "It's all about playing the ball, not the man."