Monday, May 25, 2015

Reflections on that referendum

Home to vote: image that appeared in the Irish Examiner the day after the referendum with the caption “one of many emigrants that returned home yesterday to vote”.
A few reflections on the Irish marriage referendum, now that the result is known: Yes 62% No 38%, with a turnout of more than 60%.  

The Yes campaign brought about the largest turnout in a referendum in over two decades (we have plenty in Ireland), and it's led to talk of a “social revolution” and a “tsunami of support”.  A mass invasion of polling stations by young people, and the home to vote campaign (which I've only become aware of in the past couple of days). And grandparents turning out to vote yes too. “The people’s resounding approval of gay marriage was influenced by an energetic, orderly, and unprecedented campaign that points to a potential sea change in the future of Irish politics”  in the words of the Irish Examiner.

I'm not sure I can go along with this tsunami business. 60% turnout? Hmm. But what is true is that anyone over 40 can remember when government and people were in thrall to the Catholic Church. And that's now gone.  On Friday night, before the count,
I commented that in this locality Catholic mass attendance by people of my age is high, and I predicted that many massgoers would take their lead from the Catholic bishops.  Well I got a surprise. Looking at the voting figures for our constituency (Cork East) I see they very closely mirror the national average. Fewer Yes's than in Dublin, for sure, where it was over 70% - nonetheless, way higher than I expected.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: not wholehearted
It's worth mentioning that the Catholic Church didn't speak with a single voice.  Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin didn't appear wholehearted in his opposition. “In airing my views in public debate, I do not expect to be listened to on the basis of dogmatic utterance, but on the reasonableness of my argument.”

And more than one Catholic priest publicly stated an intention to vote for gay marriage.  Fr Iggy O’Donovan for one, prompting a reader to the Irish Catholic to write “Dear Editor, I was flabbergasted to read of Fr Iggy O’Donovan’s reported intention to vote yes in regard to the referendum concerning same-sex marriage. I read the article three times to ensure I had not misconstrued the press report!”

An amusing anecdote from the campaign. The loving family appearing in the Vote No poster that featured at the top of my last post, weren't Irish, didn't know about the referendum, and when they found out, came on national radio to explain that they didn't support voting No. Lastly, can I justify the statement that Ireland was recently in thrall to the Catholic Church?  I can but not now.  For a taster I refer to the divorce referendums of 1986 and 1995 (previous post), and what I wrote about the Mother and Child crisis of 1951.