Children’s charities call for Yes in same-sex marriage vote

Group criticises ‘exploitative, hurtful and dishonest’ use of children by No campaign

Organisations involved in the BeLonG To Yes campaign in the same-sex the marriage referendum include the ISPCC, Barnardos, Foróige, Youth Work Ireland, the Migrant Rights Centre, Headstrong, Yes Equality, the Children’s Rights Alliance, Pavee Point, EPIC and the National Youth Council of Ireland, as well as BeLonG To. Photograph: Marc O’Sullivan

A Yes vote in the forthcoming same-sex marriage referendum would be "in the best interests of children", three of Ireland's leading children's charities have said.

Barnardos, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC), and the Children's Rights Alliance (CRA) said they had come together to call for a Yes vote in part because groups within the No campaign were "using children . . . as pawns" and in a way that was "dishonest".

Fergus Finlay, chief executive of Barnardos, said every time he saw a poster calling for a No vote because “every child deserves a mother and father”, he saw “a sickening insult to the thousands of lone parents and children who love and care for each other in Ireland”.

“The message is exploitative, hurtful and dishonest,” Mr Finlay said. “What every child deserves is love, respect, safety. That can come from two parents of either sex, two parents of the same-sex, or a single parent.


“There is not a shred of evidence anywhere in the world that says that the nature, or gender or sexual orientation of the parent is more important than the quality and commitment of that parenting.”

Tanya Ward, chief executive of the CRA, said that "in no way" did the referendum undermine the rights of children.

Ms Ward said: “The question is: ‘Why are children being used in this referendum as pawns?’

“It’s very important we have a concept of parenthood that is broader than a biological mother and father.”

She said her approach to the issue was not just as a children’s rights campaigner but as the parent of two young children.

“I don’t know if they’re going to be gay when they grow up. But I do know it’s going to break my heart when I see the discrimination and the bullying and the harm that they would be subjected to if they do turn out to be gay. I want to ensure that every child is accepted by our society.”

She said that a Yes vote would send the message to all children, “that when they grow up, they fall in love and want to make a life-long commitment to a person, that that relationship will be valued and respected. That is one of the most powerful reasons why we as a group and a society should support this referendum.”

Ms Ward said passing the referendum would also give Constitutional protection to children who had same-sex parents , as their parents could now get married.

‘Best interests of children’

Gráinne Long, chief executive of the ISPCC, said: “A Yes vote in this referendum is in the best interests of children.”

Ms Long said 465,000 children called Childline last year, of which 30,000 were calling due to concerns about their sexuality. She said that the most important thing that children needed was to feel valued and respected.

“We are also acutely aware that children are watching , are listening to the radio and are deeply aware of how we are describing them, how we are describing their families, of how we are describing their friends. So, as public leaders we have a responsibility to tell the facts and base what we are saying on facts.

“I am worried by the extent to which children are being used in this debate. They are being used. The key issue here is the Constitution . . . a document that frames not just the laws of the nation but also the values of the nation we want to be.

“We have an opportunity on May 22nd to say firmly children are at the heart of our Constitution. As child professionals we absolutely know this is in the best interests of children.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times