Monday 19 March 2018

Turnout will play 'key role' in gay marriage referendum

Ex-Fianna Fail TD Pat Carey
Ex-Fianna Fail TD Pat Carey
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

VOTER turnout will play a key role in the outcome of the upcoming same-sex marriage referendum, Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said.

With the referendum due in May, Mr Varadkar warned considerable work remained to be done to ensure it is passed by the electorate.

He warned that the Government still had an uphill battle to ensure historic constitutional change was adopted.

He pointed out that, just two months ahead of polling day, a fifth of the electorate were still undecided about their voting intentions.

"You can take nothing for granted in referendums. I was Fine Gael director of elections for the children's referendum, and that passed by a much narrower majority than we had anticipated.

"Less than half of those who are eligible actually vote in referendums. That's why I think it's very important there is a vigorous campaign, and that there is a high turnout.

"But it's early days yet. It's not going to be held until May, so there's plenty of time to prepare."

He also described former Fianna Fáil TD Pat Carey, who in recent days announced he is gay, as a "gentleman".

Mr Carey has already credited the minister with "courage and confidence" in deciding to publicly reveal his sexuality.

Mr Varadkar said he was pleased the former Dáil deputy was able to unburden himself of a secret he had carried with him for a long period of his life.

"I'm delighted for Pat. I think he's really one of politics' gentlemen. People say that a lot, but it's really true in his case."

He also said it's possible public announcements by two high-profile individuals regarding their sexuality was a positive in the battle for a 'Yes' vote.

"But certainly the referendum isn't about any individual; it's about equality. People have different opinions on that, and they're entitled to those opinions," he told the Irish Independent.

Meanwhile, a new Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll suggests three out of five people will vote in favour of changing the Constitution on the question of same-sex marriage.

Yet the final result is far from guaranteed, as a third of those who said they would vote for constitutional change described their support was "soft".

Gráinne Healy, chairwoman of Marriage Equality, said some people in political circles were "nervous because of past referendums". However, she was confident that if the importance of equality was discussed the "soft votes will turn to 'Yes' votes".

Irish Independent

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