Marriage referendum


Sir, – Bruce Arnold’s recent article (“Referendum wording is threat to Constitution”, Opinion & Analysis, February 23rd) and letter (February 25th) represent yet another attempt by the No campaign to muddy the waters in the lead-up to the marriage referendum.

Having argued that the Irish text of the amendment would provide only for marriage between two men or two women, he now challenges Dr Conor O’Mahony and his fellow correspondents (February 24th) to join him in calling for the wording to be amended.

If Mr Arnold’s fundamental concern is that an absurdity is about to be enshrined in the Constitution, then I assume he has been working on a wording that, if passed by the electorate, would unambiguously permit both same-sex and opposite-sex marriage.

If this is not the case, I would conclude that Mr Arnold is no champion of clarity, but rather seeks to promote and prolong confusion, in the hope that an unsure electorate will reject the referendum.

Nonetheless, if Mr Arnold is proved correct, and the passing of this referendum results in opposite-sex marriage no longer being permitted under our Constitution, I will forcefully support his efforts to vindicate his right to marry the person of his choosing, despite the fact that he seems so keen to oppose mine. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

A chara, – Fintan O’Toole writes: “In all there are about 30,000 single fathers raising their children alone right now” (“‘Hello same-sex marriage. . . Bye Bye Mammy’ could be No campaign message”, Opinion & Analysis, February 24th). This is not correct, unless they average 5.5 children. The 2011 Census gives a figure of 5,403 households where a lone father is raising one or more children, with the oldest child younger than 15.

Noel Whelan (“Marriage equality referendum campaign – it’s time to get personal”, Opinion & Analysis, February 20th) writes: “There are tens of thousands of households where children are being reared by same-sex couples.” This is not correct. The 2011 Census gave the total number of 4,042 same-sex couples living together. Not all same-sex couples rear children. The facts contradict Mr O’Toole and Mr Whelan.

Mr O’Toole writes of those men raising children alone: “Most of them, straight or gay, would probably say that it would be a little easier to do it if they had a loving, stable, supportive partner to help them.” I’m sure Mr O’Toole did not mean it so, but to say that it would be “a little easier” is so far from the truth for anyone who has lost a “loving, stable, supportive partner” that it could be hurtful.

Mr O’Toole writes that those who argue for a No vote “know very well that in Ireland a quarter of all children are already being raised by single mothers, and that insulting those women (and their extended families) is not a winning strategy”.

This is not correct. At Census 2011, there were 834,266 families with children. It reported: “The number of lone parent families stood at 215,315 in 2011 of which 186,284 were mothers and 29,031 were fathers. The majority, 124,765, had just one child.” Married couples with children had an average of 2.09 children. Families with single mothers are 22.33 per cent of all families with children. Since the majority had just one child, the number of children being raised by single mothers is well below one quarter.

If Mr O’Toole “knows very well” that a quarter of all children are being raised by single mothers, he is wrong.

Parenting alone is difficult enough. Let us get our facts straight.

To say that it is “a little easier” to raise children when accompanied by a supportive partner, as even Mr O’Toole allows, is not to “insult those women”, or indeed men, who do so alone. They are not second-class citizens. Few would make lone parenting their first preference. – Is mise,



Dublin 16.