Marriage referendum


Sir,– The response by Dr Conor O’Mahony and his legal colleagues (February 24th) to the issue I have raised about the wording of the marriage referendum is astonishing (“Referendum wording is threat to Constitution”, Opinion & Analysis, February 23rd). He misrepresents the point I make, concedes that there is a problem with the Irish text and then asks your readers to assume that the courts will sort out the “absurdity” in due course by denying the primacy of the Irish text.

Their advice shows a disregard for the intelligence and sovereignty of the people and runs completely contrary to Article 25.5.4 – “In case of conflict between the texts of any copy of this Constitution enrolled under this section, the text in the national language shall prevail.”

My main point is not that the amendment would “prohibit” opposite-sex marriage, but that the Irish text only provides a right to marry for same-sex couples. On a plain reading, it says (translated back into English) “Two, whether it is the case that they are men or that they are women, may make a contract of marriage in accordance with law.” This is not just a literal reading of the Irish text, it is the only reasonable translation. It does not depend on a single word, as he alleges, but on the plain meaning of the sentence, in particular the qualifier “cibé acu is fir nó mná iad”.

I challenge Dr O’Mahony to produce an authoritative translation of the Irish text which would clearly permit both same-sex and opposite-sex marriages. If he cannot, he should join me in calling for the Bill to be amended.

What is astonishing in all of this is that a group of lawyers should be arguing that a highly deficient Irish text should be put before the people, who are the legislators in this matter, instead of arguing that the Oireachtas should exercise its responsibility to correct the obvious error. It smacks of arrogance to say that the Constitution means what we (lawyers, judges) want it to mean, not what it says in the document approved by the people. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Rev Patrick G Burke (February 23rd) asks us to stick with the facts when it comes to discussing marriage equality. As inconvenient as it might be for him, the lives and loves of same-sex couples are at the very heart of this referendum. While it might suit him to think about this referendum in an abstract manner, the result will have very real and significant implications for same-sex couples and their families and their position within Irish society. – Yours, etc,


Jackson Heights,

New York.