Monday 5 December 2016

Garda union urges members to vote ‘Yes’ in referendum

Published 21/04/2015 | 02:30

PJ Stone, Gen Sec of the GRA pictured with John Healy pictured leaving Government Buildings yesterday
PJ Stone, Gen Sec of the GRA pictured with John Healy pictured leaving Government Buildings yesterday

The leadership of the 10,500-strong Garda Representative Association has called for a ‘Yes’ vote in the marriage equality referendum.

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General secretary P J Stone says the referendum will be a litmus test for how far Ireland has come towards the ideals held within the Proclamation of Independence.

In a real Republic, all citizens would have equal rights to the institutions of the State and marriage was one of those, he says.

“This association is committed to equality for all members and for the public we serve,” Mr Stone said.

“It supports the rights of all members of the LGBT community and as a staff representative body, we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind in the workplace, which naturally extends to the wider society and community”.

Mr Stone says same-sex couples have long been discriminated against, both in law and social mores. “Indeed, they have long been denied the rights to equality, based on the opinions and emotions of others.

“Slowly and incrementally, many discriminatory laws have been reformed and attitudes changed.

“No longer are members of our LGBT community exiled or driven underground but we have a thriving and open community in Dublin, that is extending nationwide.”

Writing today in the latest edition of the association’s magazine, Garda Review, Mr Stone (right) warns that, despite opinion polls, it would be complacent to ignore the possibility that a “no” vote could deny a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redress the denial of rights to those in same-sex couples.

He says some citizens are reluctant to embrace change for many diverse reasons.

Ireland has been progressive in its legislative process and few could imagine the smoking ban taking effect when it was first mooted.

“We also know that some bigotry remains and has been fuelled with ammunition to fuel primal emotions, rather than enlightened thinking.

“For some, they don’t understand why same-sex couples have the need for marriage or think marriage is the cementing of a coupling, based on biological reproduction. 

“Neither argument is representative of equality of rights”.

Mr Stone says the association believes that sexual orientation or gender of members is a matter of personal integrity and should not be subject to the prejudices of others.

“Other people’s hierarchy of needs also require security, love and companionship that should not be legislated against.

“Equally, civil partnership is not just about tax allowances or pension benefits, although these are a part of the narrative.

“The association is non-discriminatory in all of our member schemes but the lack of equality does deprive some members of their rights and privileges, paid for and earned,” he adds.

Recommending a ‘Yes’ vote, Mr Stone says: “We have long campaigned for equality for issues of disability, race, gender and sexual orientation within our organisation.

“The marriage equality referendum is the first time that many of our members will have the opportunity to directly support such equality in the legislative process”.

Irish Independent

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