Tánaiste publicly backs gay marriage


TÁNAISTE EAMON Gilmore has given public support to gay marriage, saying the time has come for society to recognise “the civil rights issue of this generation”.

Mr Gilmore is the most senior member of the Government to give his backing to the campaign. He expressed his support in a speech on the separation of church and State at Labour’s Tom Johnson Summer School.

Gay marriage is one of the main issues that will be discussed by the constitutional convention.

It is to be established this year to recommend if constitutional reform is required in relation to a number of specified matters.

The first two issues that will be scrutinised are a possible reduction in the voting age and cutting the term of office of the president from seven years to five.

It is not certain when other issues, including same-sex marriage, will be scheduled. Mr Gilmore was not in a position to clarify that yesterday.

Speaking at a joint press occasion with campaign group Marriage Equality, the Tánaiste said it was appropriate that he should offer his support on Gay Pride weekend in Dublin.

He argued that politicians were lagging behind ordinary citizens in relation to this issue, citing a recent opinion poll which showed 70 per cent support for gay marriage.

“It is my view that gay people should have the right to marry. I think that is the view of most people in this country. Irish society has moved on considerably on this issue,” he said.

Gráinne Healy, chairwoman of Marriage Equality, said she welcomed the statement.

“This really important statement has come from one of our senior political leaders, joining international leaders like the president of America who has issued a similar statement,” she said.

“This is an issue that will be discussed at the constitutional convention and we are very pleased that the Tánaiste said it today.

“We have civil partnership from last year. We believe that now is the time for civil marriage and look forward to the convention. It will allow all the thousands of lesbian and gay couples in Ireland and their families to really achieve equality,” she said.

Mr Gilmore said he did not think it was the job of the State to “determine who people should fall in love with, or who they should spend their lives with”.

“Gay people should have the same rights as anybody else to marry. I hope that it’s one of the outcomes from the convention.”

Asked whether Taoiseach Enda Kenny agreed with his views, Mr Gilmore responded that he did not know.