Support for same-sex marriage a relief for Government given their referendum record

Another defeat is the last thing the Coalition needs ahead of an election

The 5th Annual Marriage Equality March campaigning for equal rights for same sex couples photographed gathering at City Hall where they marched to the Department of Justice, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

The 5th Annual Marriage Equality March campaigning for equal rights for same sex couples photographed gathering at City Hall where they marched to the Department of Justice, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

The strong support for same-sex marriage as evidenced in the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll will come as a welcome relief to a beleaguered Government.

With the referendum due to take place in April or May the last thing the Coalition needs is another defeat in the run-up to a general election.

The Government has already lost two referendums, one on giving extra powers to Oireachtas committees and the other on the proposed abolition of the Seanad. Both were key elements of the Coalition’s package of political reforms, but their rejection put a dent in that programme.

Government strategists will be keenly aware that the initial polls on both of those issues, taken well in advance of the referendums, indicated there would be comfortable Yes majorities. In both cases, the gap narrowed considerably once the actual campaigning began and the Yes majority evaporated in the final week.

Inevitable erosion

The fact that a significant majority of supporters of all the political parties and groupings back the proposition is also important.

Given the current unpopularity of the Government, as revealed in other aspects of the poll, the measure will only be carried if there is strong support for it from the Opposition forces in the Dáil.

The referendum on same-sex marriage will be just one of a number held on the same day following the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention. The Government has also given a firm commitment to a proposal to abolish the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution.

Blasphemy offence

Irish Times

A proposal from the Convention to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 is still being examined but no decision has been made on whether it will go to a referendum.

A number of senior figures in Fine Gael and Labour are dubious about the proposition and successive opinion polls in The Irish Times have shown that a majority of people do not support the change, so there is no guarantee it will form part of the proposed changes on referendum day next year.

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