Saturday 3 December 2016

Instead of tinkering with this Constitution, make a new one

Published 16/05/2015 | 02:30

‘The entire context of the Constitution, which was drafted hand in glove with the Catholic
hierarchy in 1937, is outmoded.’ Taoiseach Eamon de Valera pictured with Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, who helped him draft that document, in 1940
‘The entire context of the Constitution, which was drafted hand in glove with the Catholic hierarchy in 1937, is outmoded.’ Taoiseach Eamon de Valera pictured with Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, who helped him draft that document, in 1940

There will be a national sigh of relief when this constitutional referendum campaign is over. For me, there is a weary familiarity with both sides of the argument, to the point that many voters are tired of the conversation. I am referring, of course, to the referendum on marriage equality, not the other one, which enjoys spectacular disinterest.

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The change in the Constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry just like heterosexual couples is straightforward. For me, the extension of marriage rights to gay couples follows rationally on the 1993 legislation which decriminalised homosexual acts. The Norris case, though rejected by the Supreme Court, was ultimately vindicated in the European Court of Human Rights.

Looking back, it was a blessing there was no actual prohibition on homosexuality in the Constitution. One shudders to think of how ferocious such a campaign would have been. As it was, the Dáil could legislate by repealing the 1861 Offences against the Person Act.

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