Tuesday 25 October 2016

Kenny admits some in FG did not campaign for a Yes vote

John Downing, Philip Ryan and Niall O'Connor

Published 21/05/2015 | 02:30

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny
Tánaiste Joan Burton: FG politicians have ‘reservations'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has conceded that some conservative elements in Fine Gael did not campaign for a 'Yes' vote in tomorrow's referendum on same-sex marriage.

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With the countdown to voting under way, a senior Government spokesman last night warned there were fears an element of complacency had set in during the final days of the campaign and "the final vote could be extremely tight".

Mr Kenny's comments came as Labour leader Joan Burton also said many Fine Gael politicians had "reservations" about actively supporting gay marriage. But she added that Fine Gael in government were totally committed to a successful campaign and their party organisers had committed big resources to the entire project.

Ms Burton was answering questions about tensions between Fine Gael and Labour over tomorrow's referendum, with many of her own TDs and senators feeling the senior coalition partner did not play a full part. One Labour TD said Fine Gael provided lots of posters - but few people.

"I am aware of what some Fine Gael backbenchers have said. Some of the older members particularly in the party may have had reservations," Ms Burton told the Irish Independent.

But the Tánaiste also cited the campaigning efforts of five Fine Gael people - Frances Fitzgerald, Simon Coveney, Jerry Buttimer, Leo Varadkar and Alan Shatter. Closing her party's campaign, she said that both Government parties brought different emphasis to different issues and Labour had taken a lead on this matter.

Separately, Taoiseach Enda Kenny admitted there was a conservative element within Fine Gael who did not actively campaign. "The Fine Gael party has quite a number of members who would be very conservative. As I have said publicly before, I have travelled on a journey myself," he said at his party's final press conference.

Jerry Buttimer, the Fine Gael TD for Cork South Central, who had spoken movingly in the Dáil about his past experiences as a young gay man, insisted that many leading figures in Fine Gael throughout the country had campaigned hard on the issue. "I could name dozens of TDs, senators and councillors who canvassed for a 'Yes'," he told the Irish Independent.

The Tánaiste also had novel advice for voters in the gay marriage referendum: "Take a selfie!" Unlike Cabinet colleagues predicting a 60:40 win in tomorrow's landmark vote, the Labour leader said it was too near polling day to make a prediction.

She said everything now centred on a big turn-out to ensure victory for the Yes campaign. And she urged early voters to send "selfies" to friends to goad them into coming out to vote.

"Take a selfie. Take the photo outside the polling station - not inside - send it to all your friends saying: 'I've voted - have you?' Because that's what we need," Ms Burton said.

Ms Burton said Labour had driven social law changes over the last two decades. In government with Fianna Fáil and later Fine Gael in the 1990s, they championed the decriminalisation of homosexuality; a successful divorce referendum; and wider availability of contraceptives.

At his party's final rally, Labour TD John Lyons said the majority of the nation's voters held the future hopes and fears of Ireland's gay community in their hands. "Treat us gently and treat us with respect," he said.

Mr Lyons was joined by his mother, Josie, who was featured in a short video with her son.

Irish Independent

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