News Referendum 2015

Thursday 29 September 2016

'Yes' campaign is driven by myth and huge foreign investment

Bruce Arnold

Published 19/05/2015 | 02:30

The Teachers for a No Vote group outside Dáil Éireann, including from left, parent Judith Dunne from Bray, parent Dr Helena Smith from Dún Laoghaire, spokesperson Kevin Leavy from Roscommon, teacher Clar Ní Cheallacháin from Sandyford and Dr John Murray from the Iona Institute. Photo: Steve Humphreys
The Teachers for a No Vote group outside Dáil Éireann, including from left, parent Judith Dunne from Bray, parent Dr Helena Smith from Dún Laoghaire, spokesperson Kevin Leavy from Roscommon, teacher Clar Ní Cheallacháin from Sandyford and Dr John Murray from the Iona Institute. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has written about her experiences with people during her time as Justice Minister. On the issue of homosexuality she wrote lyrically about women "with their tears unwiped". These women, apparently, were the mothers of gay sons "terrified that their children might fall foul of a law that characterised their sexuality as against the interests of the State".

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She recalled the government making a decision "that may not have been popular but was certainly right". This, apparently, was a decision to decriminalise homosexuality.

She even paraphrased Churchill's famous wartime speech about her decision not being the end, nor the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.

Homosexuality was never a criminal offence in Ireland. What Ms Geoghegan-Quinn did do, under pressure from David Norris - who had done the spade-work on this reform in Brussels with help from Mary Robinson - was to decriminalise "homosexual acts", which were an offence until she acted on reluctant government approval after intervention from Europe.

This same narrative has been a consistent thread in the bleating story about how we are rescuing homosexuals from society's prejudice.

Bits of the story have come out during the referendum campaign, from Mary McAleese and her son, from Noel Whelan, from Ivana Bacik. They have all supported the myth to which Máire Gegeghan-Quinn subscribes. The overall truth was that we were forced by an international court to complete the modest liberation of gays from the final problem they faced - that of committing private crimes - while at the same time combining it with what I called at the time "her draconian measures against an even more marginalised section in our community, those engaged in prostitution".

The 'Yes' side has been engaging with this entirely selective picture of oppressed same-sex couples, by repeating the idea that homosexuality itself was once "criminal".

At the heart of this referendum story, amply described in documents available on the website of the Irish-American association The Atlantic Philanthropies, is a massive and sustained intrusion in Irish political and social life with almost unlimited funds, much of it driving an LGBT agenda.

In my view, politicians have pledged themselves to the 'Yes' side, voting without understanding what they are supporting and how it is funded.

In my opinion, The Atlantic Philanthropies has bought this referendum.

Contrary to the 'Yes' campaign claim that the marriage referendum has nothing to do with children, an Atlantic report is very clear that ensuring "LGBT parenting rights and the rights of children in LGBT families" is very much part of its legislative agenda.

The rights of partners under the Civil Partnership Act do not equate to the rights of marriage in language, law, or perception. Marriage Equality identified more than 160 statutory differences between civil partnership and civil marriage, including the rights of the children of LGBT families. The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen) and Marriage Equality followed the Civil Partnership Act by continued campaigning for civil marriage. Marriage Equality focused on visibility campaigns, where videos on the web and posters on the street dramatically raised the visibility of LGBT people and their families. Its powerful 2009 video 'Sinead's Hand' has been seen by at least half a million viewers.

The Atlantic Philanthropies also took pride in the Constitutional Convention passing a recommendation stipulating that the State should recognise the rights of parents and children in LGBT families, such as allowing for second parent adoption and guardianship.

Meanwhile, a consultant's report (by PA Consulting) on the activities of Glen in 2010 confirmed the highly political nature of the work undertaken by the organisation.

"The overarching and dominant focus of Glen's work has been to secure legislative and policy change. This is not to understate its other (work). Rather, it underlines the central ethos of Glen to ensure that the policy and legislative infrastructure supports equality for LGB people and drives social change … A key finding from this evaluation is that Glen had a critical role in shaping the legislation and in driving its progress."

In another 2010 report, 'Field Dispatches: Winning Civil Partnerships in Ireland', Atlantic interviewed a Glen spokesperson on the next steps in its plan.

"Glen has always sought civil marriage and we have welcomed civil partnership, which is closely based on marriage, as a radical step toward that goal.

"The critical challenge to achieving marriage is the consensus that now exists across all political parties that opening out civil marriage to same-sex couples will require a referendum to change the Irish Constitution. … The legal case taken by Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan to have their Canadian marriage recognised in Ireland did not succeed in the High Court, following a detailed judgment in 2006. An appeal has been lodged with the Supreme Court with the hearing hopefully to be held by the end of the year, although no specific date has been set as yet."

"A critical immediate goal of Glen is for legal recognition of same-sex families. Important policy opportunities for advancing such recognition now exist. At an institutional level, this includes the work of the Law Reform Commission on the legal aspects of family relationships.

"Considerable political support was also expressed in the debates on civil partnership by politicians across political parties for further progress to address gaps in legal recognition of children being parented by same-sex couples."

A further report on the Atlantic website, dated November 27, 2012, 'Civil Partnership and Ireland: How a Minority Achieved a Majority', reflects on the success of Glen in engineering social change. "In 2010, Ireland enacted some of the most far-reaching legal protections for gay and lesbian couples in the world. The case study describes the story of how this historic legislation gained passage in a largely Catholic country that just 16 years earlier had decriminalised homosexual conduct between men. It looks at the efforts of Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen) which, along with many supporters, worked methodically to achieve this change.

"The study outlines the critical elements of the advocacy strategy and how Glen adapted its approach in response to changing social and political opportunities and setbacks."

The foregoing is just a small selection of key passages in the extensive documentation publicly available on the internet.

The evidence is overwhelming. Huge foreign investment has driven a highly focused political agenda in this country for many years.

The question now is whether the people of Ireland will complete the sale.

Irish Independent

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