Taoiseach reveals a member of his extended family is gay

Kenny defends wording on the referendum ballot papers

 Taoiseach Enda Kenny: ‘Are the Irish people going to deny their own kith and kin the right to have a marriage contracted in civil law if that’s what they wish to do?’  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: ‘Are the Irish people going to deny their own kith and kin the right to have a marriage contracted in civil law if that’s what they wish to do?’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has revealed a member of his extended family is gay.

Mr Kenny said he was contacted recently by a distant relative in the United States who had heard about the upcoming same-sex marriage referendum.

“I don’t know the person because they contacted me from the United States. And they’re in the extended family, probably very extended,” he said.

“But they wrote to me on the basis of hearing that a referendum was taking place, congratulating the people on having the right to have the opportunity to answer the question.”

Mr Kenny was speaking to Pat Kenny on Newstalk radio on Thursday morning. His comments were prompted by a question from a listener who asked if Mr Kenny had any gay members of his extended family.

A Fine Gael spokesman, contacted after the interview, said the person did not want to be identified at this point.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach defended the wording on the referendum ballot papers.

On May 22nd, voters will be asked if they agree or disagree with the proposition: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

Mr Kenny revealed there had been a lot of discussion at Cabinet level “to make it as simple and as clear as possible”.

He said the wording was as direct as could be while remaining in compliance with the Constitution.

Mr Kenny said the introduction of civil partnership had been “a step very much in the right direction” but it was not the same as civil marriage under the law.

Referring to his “journey” towards supporting same-sex marriage, he said: “I was born in the fifties in very conservative, provincial Ireland.”

Appealing to listeners to vote Yes, Mr Kenny said: “If a member of your own family or your extended family says, ‘look I’m a gay person, I want to get married, I want to have the same opportunities as everyone else’, are you going to deprive them of that? Are you going to say no?”

Turning to the other referendum which will be held on the same day, on reducing the lower age limit for presidential candidates from 35 to 21, Mr Kenny said he was also hoping for a Yes vote in that poll.

Presenter Pat Kenny put it to Mr Kenny that Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton had announced she would be voting No in the presidential age referendum on the basis that it was “irrelevant”.

The Taoiseach responded by saying: “No, she’s wrong.”

Asked if he would consider running for the Presidency in the future, Mr Kenny said: “No certainly not”.

And asked if he was ruling it out categorically, he said: “Yes, absolutely.”

Reacting to the news that the planned strike by Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann had been called off, Mr Kenny said: “I’m glad that common sense has prevailed here.”

He revealed he received a text at 4.15am from Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe giving him the news. “The Taoiseach is available 24 hours a day to receive news like that, or any other kind of news as well.”

Mr Kenny insisted the old social partnership model would not have been able to deal with what had happened in the dispute.