herald

Friday 15 December 2017

World is watching our same-sex vote, warns top Fianna Fail adviser

Martin Mansergh
Martin Mansergh

THE same-sex marriage referendum is “a dry run” for a similar vote aimed at taking the abortion provision out of the Constitution, a leading Fianna Fail politician has warned.

Dr Martin Mansergh, a senior adviser to three Fianna Fail taoisigh, also brushed aside warnings by senior figures in the current government that failure to pass the same-sex referendum would damage Ireland’s international reputation.

He warned against moves which could “over-extend the definition of human rights” in ways that could damage democracy.

Damage

“There is little basis for the claim that if we fail to vote for same-sex marriage severe damage will be done to our reputation abroad. Of our EU partners, roughly one third have adopted it,” Dr Mansergh wrote in the current edition of The Irish Catholic newspaper.

Dr Mansergh argued that amongst predominantly Catholic EU countries, Spain and Portugal have introduced same-sex marriage, while Austria, Italy and Poland have not. He also said that the Northern Ireland Assembly is against following the rest of the UK on the issue, and Unionist opposition is not attributable to “Catholic values” in that case.

He said claims that same sex-marriage was both a human rights issue and an equality issue deserved critical scrutiny.

“Care should be taken not to over-extend the definition of human rights, which override democracy, and which can only be adjudicated on in the courts,” Dr Mansergh wrote.

“In this instance, the people are being asked to confer the right to marry on two persons of the same gender, so as, it is argued, to establish marriage equality, despite obvious differences in situation,” he added.

He also insisted that prejudice against homosexual people had no place in these discussions.

“No one wants to succour prejudice. We should value couples willing to devote themselves to each other long-term, regardless of gender sameness or difference,” he also stated.

But he argued that legal protections had already been put in place for gay couples and that societal attitudes had changed significantly. Nowadays people were more prone to including people in society rather than excluding them.

“So a huge song and dance about public figures ‘coming out’ should not be necessary,” he argued.

Debate

The former FF junior minister urged a fair and well-mannered debate on the referendum due to be held in May.  He argued that a referendum vote by the people was better than the issue being decided by the law courts and also noted that it is not an issue where change could be forced by a minority party in a coalition.

“No one should be under any illusions, however. The referendum is a dry run for a sequel, the repeal of the eighth (pro-life) amendment, if politicians need no longer fear religious factors weighing on voters,” Dr Mansergh concluded.

Dr Mansergh advised Taoisigh Charles Haughey, Albert Reynolds and Bertie Ahern and was a key figure in the Northern Ireland peace negotiations.  He was also a Fianna Fail senator and TD, and was Junior Finance Minister from 2008-2011.

hnews@herald.ie

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