Friday 19 July 2019

Iona Institute's Breda O'Brien on civil marriage referendum: ‘I want every child to have a Mary and Martin - a mother and father’

Breda O'Brien: 'Same-sex marriage is not a human right'

Iona Institute's Breda O'Brien
Iona Institute's Breda O'Brien Newsdesk Newsdesk

The patron of the Iona Institute has called on former President Mary McAleese to clarify that she was not implying that anyone who votes No in the upcoming referendum is homophobic when she spoke yesterday.

The former president last night called for a yes vote in the upcoming Same Sex Marriage Referendum, calling it a "human rights issue".

Mrs McAleese said the referendum on May 22 is about the future of Ireland's children.

Breda O’Brien, patron of the Iona Institute told Chris Donoghue, presenter of Newstalk’s Breakfast, that it would be “extraordinary” if marriage is "redefined" with a yes vote.

“I think it will be extraordinary if, thanks to the intervention of the Iar-Uachtarán na hÉireann (the former President of Ireland), that one gay child will be denied the right Mary [McAleese] and [her husband] Martin’s children have had, which is the right to a mother and father.”

“We are looking to the future for children – children gay and straight, unborn – that they will have the right to a mother and a father and thereby we are changing the definition of marriage.”

“What I want is not to have any form of inequality for gay people. What I want is the right of every child – gay, straight - that there will be no gay child who will come into the world and not have a right to a Mary and Martin, who will not have the right to a mother and father, because we’re enshrining in the Constitution the idea that it’s exactly the same.”

Ms O’Brien also told Newstalk's O'Donoghue that a Yes vote would lead to marriage becoming a “genderless” institution, without “yin and yang”.

“We will no longer have an institution that is in any way seen as different. It will not be possible to enter into the same kind of marriage that I entered into which was about the complementarity between a man and a woman, the yin and the yang if you want to call it that. It is now a genderless institution... It is about gender.”

“I’d like to ask Mary McAleese as a feminist and as a thinker, what is her view on surrogacy and what is her view on women being used as wombs?,” she added.

Ms O’Brien said she believes same-sex marriage is not a human right.

“Article 12 of the European Convention of Human Rights enshrines the right to marriage and sees it as traditional marriage - marriage between a man and a woman. There is no human right to same-sex marriage.”

“Countries can decide to vote it in but it has been established by the European Court of Human Rights that there is no human right to it.”

“I don’t see it as a human right... I do think that there are hugely important human rights here. I think that there is the right to gay people to respect for their relationships. I think there is the right of gay people to stand up in front of their friends and neighbours and to say ‘I do’ as they do already in civil partnerships.”

Ms O’Brien said she would like Mary McAleese to clarify that she was not implicating anyone who votes “no” as “part of the architecture of homophobia”.

“I accept that she did not say directly that people who vote "no" are part of the architecture of homophobia, I would like her to remove any implication that that is the case.”

Yesterday, the former President, who is known for her strong Catholic faith, said she is voting "Yes" in the same-sex marriage referendum on May 22.

Ms McAleese, who has on occasion challenged the church authorities, said she and her husband, Martin, supported the constitutional change, which she said was about human rights.

Speaking from Notre Dame University in the USA, former President McAleese told Newstalk’s George Hook that she and her husband had given the issue a great deal of thought.

"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 told presenter George Hook.

"The adult children, the children yet unborn, the gay children yet unborn - we want them to be born into a world where if they fall in love with someone they can express that love fully," she added.

"I'm hoping very much, my husband and I are both hoping very much, that it will be passed," Ms McAleese said.

"We believe it to be a human rights issue."

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