A No result in the upcoming marriage equality referendum would send out a “bad message internationally” to those who want to come and work in Ireland, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has said.
Speaking at the Young Fine Gael National Conference in Limerick Dr James Reilly said it was important that marriage equality was enshrined in the constitution.
A No result on May 22nd next would show Irish people as “less tolerant than we should be,” he said.
“It will send a bad message internationally to those who would like to come here and work here, and we are trying to attract inward investment. We are trying to attract highly qualify individuals. This may be seen as something that would be negative from their point of view.
“I equally think it would show that we really haven’t come to terms with ourselves yet and I believe that we have, and I believe that there is a an awful lot of people who believe like I do, that we live in a Republic where one of the core values is that we treat everyone equally.”
Dr Reilly said while civil unions on the surface give everybody the same rights, it is a law that could be reversed by a government at any time.
“Whereas once it’s enshrined in the Constitution they have to go back to the people. That’s a far safer place to be and it means everyone is being treated equally,” he added.
In his address at the conference the outgoing president of Young Fine Gael Dale McDermott spoke of his difficult journey in coming out as a gay Irish man.
As the organisation launched its guide to the equality marriage referendum, the 22-year-old recalled being depressed as a teenager and how on his darkest days he even considered “ending it all”.
“For years, being gay consumed my mind – I hated it. I was depressed; I felt that I could never achieve my potential and that a limit would be placed on how far I could go.”
Urging those in young Fine Gael to play a significant role in the upcoming referendum campaign the 22-year-old said securing a Yes result would tell teenagers struggling with their sexuality, that it is okay to be who you are in modern day Ireland.
“I know what it is like to be the teenager in the classroom, hiding under a thin veneer of “straightness” because of an institutionalised fear of what my peers would say and do if my veneer was scratched,” he revealed.
“I know what it’s like to feel that the only way I can fix my problem is by pretending it simply doesn’t exist or even during my darkest days, by ending it all entirely. No one should have to go through that mental rollercoaster especially during his or her teenage years. Sadly, for some, this is what being gay is like in our modern day republic,” he added.
Speaking at the conference, Tiernan Brady of GLEN stressed the importance of having a respectful tone during the next 11 week campaign and creating an environment in which people are not afraid to ask questions.
“One of the reasons people don’t ask questions is because they have a fear of offending people. Our challenge is to create an atmosphere where people can ask these questions and are not afraid.”
Mr Brady said unlike other referenda this is about real people and described it as an “incredible moment in Irish history”
“This is a referendum about what we do when two people meet, fall in love and want to commit and have a great life together, it’s a box ticking exercise in happiness and we have to have a campaign that reflects that.
“We have 11 weeks to do this and we will spend the rest of our lives smiling as we think about what we did to make this happen,” he added.