Fine Gael TDs uneasy over same-sex marriage poll

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn says referendum will be held in early 2015

Ruairí Quinn says vote on gay marriage to be part of a series of recommendations to come out of Constitutional Convention

Ruairí Quinn says vote on gay marriage to be part of a series of recommendations to come out of Constitutional Convention

Tue, Oct 29, 2013, 01:00

The Coalition is facing the prospect of resistance within the Fine Gael parliamentary party to any early push for a referendum on same-sex marriage.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has kept his options open on the question ahead of a looming Cabinet decision, but at the weekend Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore reiterated his commitment to a referendum.

At its meeting tomorrow or its subsequent meeting next Tuesday, the Cabinet is due to discuss the call from the Constitutional Convention to extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Labour commitment
On RTÉ radio yesterday, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said his understanding was that there would be a referendum on gay marriage in early 2015.

“I am looking forward to putting that proposal to the people,’’ the Minister added. He suspected that such a vote might be part of a series of recommendations to come out of the convention.

While the immediate setting of a date for a referendum is unlikely, Fine Gael TDs acknowledged divergent views within the parliamentary party on the merits of proceeding with a vote at all.

This is said to centre both on resistance to the substance of the proposal itself and political concern to avoid another setback on a constitutional question in the wake of the Seanad referendum defeat.

There is further concern on the back benches to avoid any repeat of the divisions seen in the party over the abortion legislation, which led to the loss of five TDs and two Senators.

“I support the holding of a referendum. I think we need to see marriage equality in this country,” said Dublin South-East TD Eoghan Murphy. “I think Fine Gael should facilitate the holding of a referendum in the future but that doesn’t mean the party has to take to a position in that referendum.”

More circumspect
Other TDs, who declined to be quoted for the record, were decidedly more circumspect.

One said the question of a referendum on this topic should not be priority at all for the Government in the short term.

“I was surprised to hear it,” the TD said of the Cabinet discussion to come .

“I just feel that our job is to get the economy back on track, to get all that right, that’s ultimately what we’ll be judged on. My own opinion is that we should concentrate over the next two years on economy and jobs.”

When it was put to him that Mr Gilmore had cast same-sex marriage as the civil rights issue of our time, the TD said: “I think it’ll be in Labour’s interest as well to follow what I just said.”

Another Fine Gael TD questioned whether the same sex marriage question was a priority for voters but acknowledged it concerned “basic rights”.