Lessons of Irish marriage equality push shared with UK Labour

Gráinne Healy tells Corbyn’s first party conference of referendum campaign

Campaigners must engage with voters on the values of the EU if they are to ensure a Yes vote in the upcoming UK referendum, an Irish same-sex marriage campaigner has said.

The former co-chair of the Marriage Equality, Dr Gráinne Healy, spoke at a fringe event at the UK Labour party's annual conference in Brighton on Sunday.

At a panel discussion entitled “How do we win the EU Referendum”, Dr Healy said part of the success of the Marriage Equality campaign in Ireland was its ability to speak to the values of voters.

“Irish people think of themselves as people in favour equality, who are kind and inclusive...these were the values that the Yes equality campaign represented,” she said ahead of the panel discussion.

She said it was important for those campaigning to keep Britain within the UK to “lay out the values of the EU and what it represents”.

Dr Healy said she had been chosen to speak at the event, in part because the recent passing of the same-sex marriage referendum had resonated strongly with people in the UK and also because of Ireland’s experience in holding referendums.

Earlier, former UK Cabinet minister Alan Johnson said the recent election of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party would strengthen the party's campaign to keep Britain in the European Union.

Mr Corbyn has indicated his party will support Britain's continued membership of the EU during the referendum promised by prime minister David Cameron by the end of 2017.

Speaking after a fringe event at Labour’s conference in Brighton, Mr Johnson said: “I met Jeremy last week. He is absolutely 100 per cent in favour of this campaign”.

“His argument is no matter what emerges from the Cameron negotiations we have to stay in Europe in order to determine our future.

“We’ve now got the biggest party, we are the pro-European party who can deliver, unlike the Liberal Democrats who have shrunk away, the Tories who are divided and Ukip who are opposed.

“So I think we’re in a pole position, and it’s actually a stronger position post-Jeremy Corbyn’s election.”

Mr Johnson, who is leading Labour’s campaign to stay in the EU, said it was “perverse” to think of any circumstances which would result in Brexit.

Additional reporting PA