Friday 22 November 2019

Author Colm Toibin: 'I'd love the right to marry my partner here'

Colm Toibin
Colm Toibin
Colm Toibin
Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

Author Colm Toibin has said he would "love to have the right to get married" to his partner in Ireland.

The 59-year-old gay writer has spoken out in advance of next month's same-sex marriage referendum.

His partner lives in the States, and Mr Toibin said he would love to say to him that they could come to Ireland and get married here.

Mr Toibin, who has been nominated for the Booker Prize three times, said it was important for voters around the country to frame the referendum in personal terms, asking themselves how they would feel if it was their son or daughter who was gay or lesbian and wished to get married.

"If you ask people hard abstract questions, using words like 'institution of marriage', that's one thing," he said.

"But if you say your nephew is gay and he's 16, the first thing people would feel is a sense of worry - will he be all right?

"It becomes pressing and important that this person you know would have a reasonable expectation of a happy life. The less abstract it is, the more sympathetic people are.

"This isn't like other debates. In a debate about the economy or foreign policy, everybody could have a different view and you could argue your point.

"The problem is, if you're gay, it's fundamental to you. If someone thinks that I should not have the right to love, it's very difficult to handle and it's very difficult to be rational in response."

The author has agreed to speak at Trinity College on May 14 ahead of the referendum eight days later.

At the moment he is teaching at Columbia University, but will be home to vote on polling day, May 22.

Separately, Breda O'Brien, a patron of the Iona Institute, has told how she believes that if gays want to live a Christian way of life, couples they should abstain from sex.

"If you can live up to this very demanding thing, I think it will make you happy to abstain," she said.

"It will be excruciatingly difficult. I think you will need huge support, huge help, lots of very strong, loving relationships."

She also spoke about the aftermath of the so-called Pantigate controversy.

RTE paid out €85,000 in damages to a group of individuals, including Ms O'Brien, after it was claimed on live TV that they were homophobic.

"People were saying how they felt about it on the radio," she said.

"One of my children, who was 15, suddenly realised that they were talking about me.

She said, 'Mammy, is that about us?' And I said, 'I'm sorry darling, but it is'.

"And she said, 'Are we safe?' and I said, 'Darling, I'm going to keep you safe - and we are safe and there is no danger and we are fine'.

"But that really broke my heart. That my little girl didn't feel safe."


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