Referendum amendment ‘an act of vandalism’, say No vote group

First Families First member John Waters says marriage amendment is ‘insanity’

A group calling for a no vote in the forthcoming same sex marriage referendum has said the proposed amendment would be “an act of vandalism” against the Constitution.

First Families First objects to the wording of the proposed amendment. The group said it wants to defend the rights of existing families - married, unmarried and single parents - against its “hidden consequences”.

The group was launched on Friday by journalist John Waters, former MEP Kathy Sinnott and Dublin-based psychotherapist Gerry Fahey.

According to the group, inserting a provision on same-sex marriage into Article 41 of the Constitution would “radically alter” the legal meaning of family and parenthood, which could lead to “serious wrongs” in the family court.


“In the context of the campaign being fought as though it were a clear issue of same-sex marriage or not, we seek to emphasise that what is at stake here is a particular wording...which we believe would have serious adverse effects on the protections available to families,” Waters said.

The group insist the no vote they seek is not a reflection on the principle of same sex-marriage itself - on which they hold different views as individuals - but on the wording of the amendment.

At the centre of their campaign is a proposal to insert language from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in to the Constitution. The convention holds that the State “shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both of its biological parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents”.

Asked if his view on the referendum would change if this language was used, Waters said he would not reveal his intended vote but conceded “if [their proposed] amendment was to be included I wouldn’t campaign against the [MAIN]amendment.”

Ms Sinnott said she would discuss her views on the vote in another setting, while Mr Fahey said he would vote yes if their proposed amendment was adopted.

“If you implant into the Constitution a new category of family you will change the criteria by which family is understood legally and constitutionally,” Waters said.

“Only in the course of time and in the course of various court hearings and proceedings will the full picture of the consequences of this change manifest themselves.”

According to the group, it was not possible to separate the effects of the recently enacted Children and Family Relations Act from the referendum issue.

“We will have a series of court proceedings which will change over time the meaning of this Article and in this way when you go into court as a parent you will find that biology no longer matters,” said Waters.

“Procreative capacity among a male-female couple will no longer matter in the definition of a family. Therefore it becomes something else, an economic unit.

“This would be madness. To allow this to go into the Constitution would be insanity.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times