Tuesday 12 December 2017

'Where else could you have an openly gay Irishman running the national airline?' - Qantas boss Alan Joyce

Dubliner praises Ireland for same-sex marriage referendum outcome

Alan Joyce, chief executive officer of Qantas Airways Ltd.
Alan Joyce, chief executive officer of Qantas Airways Ltd.
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

The boss of Australia’s iconic Qantas airline, Dubliner Alan Joyce, has heaped praise on Ireland for the outcome of its same-sex marriage referendum last year.

Mr Joyce, who’s gay, is one of Australia’s highest-paid executives and has donated A$1m (€668,000) of his own money to the ‘yes’ campaign for same-sex marriage Down Under.

The postal vote is already underway there, and the result will be known on November 15.

“I’m very proud of Ireland,” he told Independent.ie

“I left Ireland in 1996 when homosexuality was illegal. We’re now 20 years later, where we have an openly gay prime minister, we have a country that massively voted in favour of marriage equality, and it sent a beacon to the rest of the world, which is a credit to Ireland, as a progressive, accepting country.”

Mr Joyce grew up in Tallaght. During the summer he received Australia’s highest civilian honour in the Queen birthday list.

Ballots for the same-sex ‘survey’ in Australia have already been sent to voters in what is a divisive campaign.

Voting in the survey is not mandatory, unlike in general elections in Australia where voters who don’t complete a ballot can be fined A$20.

“Don’t take this for granted,” said Mr Joyce regarding the possible outcome of the vote.

“Turnout’s going to be critical. While the opinion polls are positive for a yes vote… opinion polls have changed and been wrong in the past, so we can’t be complacent.”

Mr Joyce was assaulted on stage at a business breakfast meeting in Perth earlier this year by a retired farmer who shoved a lemon meringue into the airline chief’s face. He was protesting Mr Joyce’s support of same-sex marriage. Qantas is also campaigning for a yes vote.

“I know, having lived in Australia for the past 20 years, that it is an amazingly accepting place,” said Mr Joyce, who lives in Sydney with his New Zealander partner.

“Where else could you have an openly gay Irishman running the national airline and a national brand?”

He said the divisive campaign in Australia “doesn’t represent the Australia that I know”.

“The tone of the debate is terrible… on both sides,” he said “I think it is damaging people in our society. I think this has been a terrible process. It should have been decided by parliament. Unfortunately, this debate is probably not showing Australia in the light that it should be shown and what the reality is.”

My Joyce said a yes vote would “send a message to the rest of the world what a great place Australia is”.

Australians voting in the postal survey must return their ballots by November 7. The result will be made public on November 15.

About 57pc of eligible voters in Australia have already returned their ballots.

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