Exclusive: McAleese's son talks of growing up as gay man as he calls for Yes

"Don't be surprised if there is a major TV interview with Ms McAleese and her son Justin on RTE (who came out as gay in an article in this newspaper last Saturday) shortly before May 22"

Fionnán Sheahan

Justin McAleese, the son of former President Mary McAleese, is calling for a Yes vote in the same-sex marriage referendum as he reveals his experience of growing up as a gay man.

This week, Mary McAleese expressed her support for the referendum saying it was "a debate about children".

Writing in today's Irish Independent, Mr McAleese (30) reveals he came out as gay to his family and friends nine years ago.

The only son of Mary and Martin McAleese is active in the campaign for same-sex marriage, serving as joint coordinator of the Yes Equality campaign in the Dublin Bay South constituency. He has had a number of letters on the referendum published in national newspapers. He has been a Fianna Fáil activist since his time as a student in UCD.

He is also a member of the Dublin FrontRunners - a running club for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans runners.

Mr McAleese is an executive in Ryanair, where he works as Head of Investor Relations.

He previously served as an assistant to Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary.

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In the article, he references the highly publicised same-sex marriage of former Unionist political adviser Steven King to his partner in Canada in 2005.

He says he was "on the verge of coming out" when friends laughed and joked about two men getting married.

And this was followed by comments by Ian Paisley Jnr, which he says were not challenged.

"So I stayed in the closet for another 18 months. Language matters, words matter, marriage matters," he says.

This week, his mother called the referendum a "human rights issue" - saying the referendum was about the future of Ireland's children. She said she and her husband, Martin, believe that everyone should be able to "love someone for life" and have that love recognised "at the highest level of Irish society".

"It is a debate about children, people have been saying it's about children - and we believe it to be about Ireland's gay children and about their future and about the kind of future we want for Ireland. We want, in the words of the proclamation: 'The children of a nation to be cherished equally'," she said.

However, No campaigners have criticised her stance, rejecting suggestions it is a human rights issue and questioning her views on the teachings of the Catholic church on a variety of topics.