Brexit poll lacked clarity of same-sex marriage vote, says campaigner

Tiernan Brady tells House of Commons event how UK could best approach a second referendum

Tiernan Brady speaking at the UK House of Commons: “Referendums need to be campaigns of respectful conversations, not angry debates and misleading attacks.”

Tiernan Brady speaking at the UK House of Commons: “Referendums need to be campaigns of respectful conversations, not angry debates and misleading attacks.”

 

Same-sex marriage campaigner Tiernan Brady has told a UK House of Commons event the Brexit referendum failed to provide voters with clarity on the impact of their decision.

Ahead of Tuesday’s parliamentary vote on the controversial exit deal Theresa May agreed with the EU, Mr Brady outlined how a possible second vote might be better approached.

“As the UK potentially faces another public vote there is learning from the Irish and Australian [referendum] experiences of how to have a public conversation on major issues in a way that increases awareness of the issues, provides clarity on the impact of a decision and seeks out a broad consensus for society,” he said. “The first UK vote on leaving the EU failed on all three counts.”

Mr Brady was speaking alongside Liberal Democrats leader Sir Vince Cable at an event entitled Change That Unifies in Westminster on Wednesday night.

The former political director of the Yes Equality campaign for the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum said there was a need to strike an appropriate tone in referendum campaigns that, unlike general elections, stand to shape long-lasting change in societies.

Societal ‘tone’

Mr Brady, who subsequently headed the successful Australian push for same-sex marriage, is now seeking a Fianna Fáil nomination for next year’s European Parliament elections.

“The tone we campaign with is the tone society has to live with after,” he said. “This means there is a huge responsibility on campaign leaders to set the right tone . . . Referendums need to be campaigns of respectful conversations, not angry debates and misleading attacks.”

He noted campaigns were often distracted by extreme voices on either side of a debate and that, in a world of social media, many avoid public debate in order to avoid confrontation.

“As extremist voices emerge across Europe, we all have to make sure they do not become the dominant voices and tone-makers of our national discussions,” he said. “We have been down that road before.”

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