Iona Institute is ‘afraid’ of same sex marriage debate says Senator

Iona solicitor defends right to free speech: traditional views do not amount to homophobia

The Iona Institute has been accused in the Seanad of being "afraid" of the debate on same-sex marriage after it sued RTÉ over allegations of homophobia during a recent interview on The Saturday Night Show.

However, the institute's solicitor Kevin Brophy said he was "dismayed" at the critical reaction by politicians and the gay community following the broadcaster's decision, via a legal settlement, to accept "it was wrong to label members of the Iona Institute as homophobic".

Mr Brophy would not be drawn on the amount of the settlement but confirmed it “was not a nominal figure” and he was happy to recommend it to his client.

Sources have indicated efforts are afoot to invite Rory O'Neill, also known as Panti and who was the subject of the interview, back on to the show alongside a representative of the institute. RTÉ said The Saturday Night Show tomorrow would feature a debate on "What constitutes homophobia and who gets to define the word?", adding that "panel details will be announced closer to transmission".


In the last few days, there have been 847 complaints to the broadcaster in relation to the interview, although their nature and breakdown are as yet unclear.

Speaking in the Seanad yesterday, Fianna Fáil’s Averil Power demanded details of the financial settlement saying “those with the deepest pockets” were bringing their weight to bear on the debate.

“The motivation of the Iona Institute in bringing the case is clear. It is afraid of the referendum and the fact that at the Constitutional Convention, in which people heard both sides of the debate over the course of two days, 80 per cent of those involved voted in favour of equality.”

Ms Power requested Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte to intervene in the matter.

However, Mr Brophy rounded on recent criticism of the institute, saying its members had a right to free speech and that holding a position against same-sex marriage was not tantamount to homophobia.

His said clients had received hate mail and that death threats were not uncommon.

“They get this because they believe in traditional family values and – horror of horrors – they believe in God.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times