McAleese tells of her gay son's secret suffering
Published 20/05/2015 | 02:30
Former President Mary McAleese has said she wished she had known about her gay son's inner suffering as he grew up a bullied teenager unable to tell her of his true identity.
Mrs McAleese, who is calling for a Yes vote in Friday's marriage referendum, admitted it is a "personal" campaign for her.
"I would have loved to have had the opportunity, from when he was aged 11 through to 21, to hug him and tell him it will be all right, we have your back and we're with you," she told the Irish Independent.
Her son Justin wrote movingly in this paper last month about how, for 10 years, he felt he had to keep his sexuality a secret because of the attitudes of others.
Mrs McAleese has been a member of the campaign for homosexual law reform for 40 years but said that, for all of that work and creating a gay-friendly home with her husband Martin, Justin felt unable to tell them he was gay until he was 21.
"In the early years when Martin and I were married, I became a founder member of that campaign. And I always look back now and thank God that I did because it meant that our son grew up in a very gay-friendly household.
"And yet, for all that, at the age of 21 he told us about...this lonely inner journey, that he had been going all those years, that he still felt he could not share," she said.
"I'd like to think that we are going to absolve young people in the future from that lonely journey and that we're going to say to them, on Friday, you are equal citizens, you can fall in love with whoever you like, you can marry that person and we Irish people...will have your back."
Eileen King, of Mothers and Fathers Matter, said while Mrs McAleese is speaking with the best of intentions, she urged those intending to vote Yes to "consider this one last time".
"We in the No campaign echo her warm words about gay people and equality. If this was a referendum about how we felt about gay people, then I for one would vote Yes with a full heart. Unfortunately it's not about that. It's about the fact that...if we vote Yes, the highest laws of our land will say that there is no difference whatsoever between the marriage of two men, and the marriage of a man and a woman."