The Yates anthology: Nightmare 'Yes' campaign
Published 16/05/2015 | 02:30
Throughout past social and libertarian debates, I'd be among the most strident in heading queues of advocacy for change.
Over four decades, the country has confronted issues like full access to contraception, legalising divorce, repealing the eighth Amendment to the Constitution (facilitating abortion in certain cases) and even permitting assisted suicide.
The need to modernise a secular Irish state, ignoring church viewpoints, was always a political priority for me. Strangely, the same-sex marriage referendum hasn't triggered the same sentiment of individual freedom.
Mostly because the 'Yes' campaign has been completely counter-productive.
In political debate, playing the man and not the ball is a disastrous tactic. You lose the audience if your default position is to label your opponent. 'No' campaigners are smeared as 'homophobic'.
'No' voters are suspected of homophobia. These presumptions may have some legitimacy given generations of toxic discrimination against gay people - including criminalisation.
However, this approach only succeeds in effectively silencing 'No' opinions, forcing them underground - not engaging in a polarised climate. Fear of admitting you might vote no because you'll forever be branded as homophobic, forces you into the closet.
But it won't change your mind. Dismissals on the basis of 'No' voters being religious zealots are equally offensive.
'Yes' campaigners' second blunder is to instruct voters as to what is and isn't at issue. The standard riposte to queries about adoption and surrogacy is to bluntly dismiss any question of them being involved.
Simply asserting that marriage is not being redefined, as a rebuttal, makes no sense. If marriage is rewritten to make it without reference to two adults' gender, it seems pretty prima facia and evidential that this does in fact create a redefinition.
Instead of acknowledging these 'No' points and debating them constructively, they're dismissed as plain wrong and irrelevant. Just imagine in a general election campaign if a political party were to insist the issues were just about health and crime, rejecting tax and education. Issues ARE whatever voters say they are, whether you like it not.
For adoption priorities, a lot of heterosexual people genuinely believe if all else was equal in ranking of selection for adoptive parents that preference should be given to them over same-sex couples.
Different attributes each gender brings to the hazardous parenting process seem complementary. Fears of an open-ended surrogacy industry developing to cater for demands of same-sex couples to have children have been expounded.
Posters from the 'Yes' side are bland and meaningless, with banal references to "equality". 'No' posters evoke emotion; babies benefiting from joy and love of both a "mother and father". The 'Yes' campaign has been superficial, arrogant and intolerant. With each passing week, it's losing support.
I'm almost certain to vote 'Yes'. Why? I'd like to improve lives of gay people; they'll be fulfilled through marriage options. Among gay friends, hidden emotional burdens are palpable, mostly about social attitudes of unacceptability.
A 'No' result could institutionalise that alienation. I'm sufficiently secure in my own marriage of 30 years - I know we'll be unaffected. A 'No' vote will alter prevalence of procreation between males and females.
In context of adoption, surrogacy or traditional teaching in schools, clear commitments should be given by political parties to allay fears - that's the most effective way to win a 'Yes' outcome.
We should also insist the same support now to be given gays will be accorded to religious groups to continue to practice their beliefs, post-referendum.
Reports by HIQA into maternity care emphasise yet again the biggest single hospital policy issue - consolidation into centres of excellence.
As far back as 1968, the Fitzgerald Report advocated there should only be four regional and 12 general hospitals developed.
Professor Patrick Fitzgerald and his consultative council unambiguously concluded county and voluntary hospitals must be rationalised, downgraded and closed. This reinforced previous report of the Hospitals Commission in 1934.
Constituency politicians and misguided localised community campaigners are ultimately to blame for inadequate patient safety.
Some 19 hospitals offer maternity services throughout the state. Spreading jam so thinly means limited financial resources are diluted. Critical Locum staff and clinicians work in hospitals, not having met patients before.
Some hospitals don't have bereavement councillors.
Repeat issues arise at Portlaoise, Cavan, Sligo, Drogheda and other county hospitals. Meanwhile, experts in emergency medicine claim there are too many A&E departments nationwide; it's not possible to adequately run them all.
Junior doctors still work excessively long shifts in small hospitals.
All hospitals should be tiered, with established protocols for immediate transfers of patients requiring complex surgery, high-risk pregnancies/deliveries and serious paediatric requirements.
Expectant mothers and car crash victims require optimal outcomes to be prioritised over immediacy of access. Will any politician take on the vested interests?
Wallies of the week
Central bankers provided a report to the Government that Standard Variable Rate (SVR) bank customers were not being "gouged" by lending institutions.
So, surprise, surprise, boffins and bureaucrats in their ivory towers dismiss any unfair treatment of 300,000 mortgage-holders.
They blithely ignore facts: rates are double average costs applicable in the eurozone area; SVR customers systemically subsidise tracker mortgages; the wholesale price of funds to banks is less than half what they retail at.
This guff comes from the same shower who just reported a profit of €2.1 billion on the backs of hapless punters.