Coveney says right to mother and father is not that simple

Corollary would be that children could be taken from single parents, says Minister

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said he disagrees with the proposition of the No campaign in the same-sex marriage referendum that every child has a right to a mother and father. Photograph: Inpho

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said he disagrees with the proposition of the No campaign in the same-sex marriage referendum that every child has a right to a mother and father. Photograph: Inpho

 

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said he disagrees with the proposition of the No campaign in the same-sex marriage referendum that every child has a right to a mother and father.

Mr Coveney, who is director of elections for Fine Gael in the campaign, has said that if that right was accepted and asserted, the corollary would be that children could be taken from single parents.

In an interview with The Irish Times ‘Inside Politics’ podcast, Mr Coveney said: “Every child has a biological mother and father, of course they do, but not every child has a mother and father. We have huge numbers of children at the moment growing up in single parent households…We have same sex couples that have the responsibility to bring up children.”

Asked if he believed the right to a mother and father existed, Mr Coveney said: “No I don’t, no. If it was as simple as every child having the right to a mother and father, we would essentially be taking children off parents who are single parents for all sorts of reasons.

“What if a parent dies for example, are we going to force another parent on that child? Anyone who thinks that family is as simple as organising a traditional nuclear family for every child in the country I don’t think really understands the complexity of family relationships.”

Irish Times: Inside Politics podcast

Mr Coveney has also disclosed that he himself has changed his view over the past decade: “I’m an interesting case study on that because If you had asked me this 10 years ago, I would always have been a strong advocate for same sex unions for example in the eyes of the state.

“But marriage for me was something different, largely because of my own background. I would have grown up in a very traditional family setting with a mother and father and lots of brothers and a sister, a very stable and positive upbringing.

“I have to say having been in public life for 15 years, life just isn’t that simple. Relationships, lifetime relationships are very varied now. They’re often quite complex.”

Mr Coveney also said he went to Taoiseach Enda Kenny in January and asked him to appoint him as director. Mr Coveney disputed any suggestion Fine Gael TDs were not taking part in the campaign. There have been reports that a number of backbench TDs in rural constituencies have decided they will not canvass in their areas.

Mr Coveney responded: “First of all I think that’s a wrong perception because I’ve spoken to most of the people in the parliamentary party on this issue and most of them are very committed to it.”

However, he did acknowledge there may be some issues with persuading every TD to canvass. “Any referendum, regardless of what the issue is, it’s difficult to get everyone in the party out campaigning on, particularly 12 months out form a general election.”

On public sector pay, the Minister said if the country was in a position to reverse some of the emergency measures of the past eight years, then it should be done but in a controlled way.

“We’re not going to go back to the Fianna Fáil mentality of when you have money you spend it immediately to try and be as popular as you can in the buildup to an election. That would be hugely irresponsible.”