The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) has called for a Yes vote in the same-sex marriage referendum on May 22nd.
The NYCI is the representative body for youth organisations with 1,400 staff and 40,000 volunteers who work with over 380,000 young people nationwide.
It has become the latest organisation to add its voice to a coalition of youth groups including the ISPCC, Barnardos, Foróige, Youth Work Ireland, the Children’s Rights Alliance and Pavee Point to call for a Yes vote.
The campaign is coordinated by BeLong To, Ireland’s national organisation for young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
NYCI deputy director James Doorley said the referendum was an opportunity to send a strong message to young people across Ireland that they are valued equally, to promote respect and reduce homophobia.
“A key part of this referendum will be getting out the vote. In the coming days NYCI will be encouraging 18- to 25- year-olds in particular to make sure they make their voices heard on Friday the 22nd of May,” said Mr Doorley.
Michael Barron, founding director of BeLong To, said it would be devastating if the referendum was not passed.
“Securing marriage equality is hugely important for LGBT young people, in particular. Too many LGBT young people experience difficult times growing up and know they don’t enjoy equal rights. If marriage equality is not passed, we reconfirm to them that their all too common experiences of homophobic bullying and rejection are acceptable in Ireland,” he said.
At a Belong To event last month to highlight the importance of a Yes vote for young LGBT people, Mr Barron pointed to research carried out by the Children's Research Centre at Trinity College in 2009, and supported by the HSE's national office for suicide prevention, which found that 58 per cent of LGBT young people had endured homophobic abuse, 25 per cent had been threatened with physical violence and 34 per cent had heard homophobic comments from their teachers.
He said societal acceptance was very important for building mental resilience and that the referendum presented an incredible opportunity to demonstrate that acceptance.