Monday 23 October 2017

Backbench fury won't stall gay marriage vote

Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

THE Government is now expected to give a clear commitment to hold the gay marriage referendum in autumn 2014 or spring 2015 – but Taoiseach Enda Kenny is facing a revolt within the Fine Gael backbenches over the referendum plans.

The objections predominantly centre on referendum fatigue, rather than conservative objections to same-sex marriage.

It comes as the list of potential referendums grows, as a think-tank has now recommended the offence of blasphemy be removed from the Constitution.

The Cabinet will discuss next week whether to hold a referendum on gay marriage, but Mr Kenny is expected to agree to Labour Party demands to get more than just a broad commitment to hold the vote sometime in the lifetime of the Government.

"We'd expect a little bit more than that, with a general indication it will be held either in the autumn of 2014 or the spring of 2015," a source said.

It's possible the Government will run a number of referendums on the same day.

Meanwhile, recommending the offence of blasphemy be removed, members of the Convention on the Constitution yesterday voted in favour of replacing the existing offence with a general provision that includes incitement to religious hatred.

Convention chairman Tom Arnold confirmed a formal report outlining the recommendations would be sent to the Government.

"There was a high level of public interest in this part of the convention's business and there were varying viewpoints on the merits of a blasphemy provision in the Constitution of a modern democracy," he said.

The Government now has four months to respond with a debate in the Oireachtas.

If it agrees to amend the Constitution, it must also include a timeframe for a referendum.

Academics and legal experts gave presentations at the two-day event, along with members of Atheist Ireland, the Humanist Association of Ireland, the Irish Council of Civil Liberties and the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland.

The convention's 100 members voted on the issue, with 82pc in favour of introducing a new set of detailed legislative provisions to include incitement to religious hatred.

Irish Independent

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