'Children should not be used as pawns by campaigners in this referendum to spread fear' - Minister James Reilly
A Government minister has accused leading members of the 'No' campaign in the Marriage Equality Referendum of using children as "pawns" in order to spread fear.
Children's Minister James Reilly has today likened members of the 'No' campaign to opponents of the divorce referendum who he said used scaremongering as a core tactic.
Dr Reilly expressed concern that commentary from the 'No' campaign will impact negatively on children who are uncomfortable with their sexuality, adding: "There is nothing to fear from allowing people to marry those whom they love".
Addressing a seminar organised by the Adoption Authority of Ireland in Dublin, the Fine Gael deputy leader accused opponents of the referendum of using children as "pawns".
"Children should not be used as pawns by campaigners in this referendum to spread fear," Dr Reilly said.
"This referendum is about equality. It is about treating everybody equally. It is about allowing everybody to marry the person that they love," he added.
The Dublin North TD used his speech to highlight the "vulnerable group" of children who are uncomfortable with their sexual orientation.
He said that charity Childline received almost 30,000 calls from children last year who were distressed about their sexuality.
"Children who are uncomfortable about their sexuality are awaiting the result. We know this is a vulnerable group in our society. A recent study clearly highlighted the impact that feeling different has on them," he said.
"They are 20 times more likely to drink alcohol frequently; 20 times more likely to use marijuana; and, most shockingly and disturbingly, 14 times more likely to attempt suicide."
The referendum is due to be held on May 22.