'Marriage vote a dry run for abortion' - Mansergh
THE same-sex marriage referendum is "a dry run" for a similar vote aimed at taking the abortion provision out of the Constitution, a leading Fianna Fáil politician has warned.
Dr Martin Mansergh, a senior adviser to three Fianna Fáil Taoisigh, also brushed aside warnings by senior figures in the current Government, that failure to pass the same-sex referendum would damage Ireland's international reputation.
He also warned against moves which could "over-extend the definition of human rights" in a way that could damage democracy.
"There is little basis for the claim that if we fail to vote for same-sex marriage, severe damage will be done to our reputation abroad. Of our EU partners, roughly one third have adopted it," Dr Mansergh wrote in the current edition of 'The Irish Catholic' newspaper.
Dr Mansergh argued that amongst predominantly Catholic EU countries, Spain and Portugal have introduced same-sex marriage, while Austria, Italy and Poland have not. He also said that the Northern Ireland Assembly is against following the rest of the UK on the issue, and Unionist opposition is not attributable to "Catholic values" in that case.
He said claims that same-sex marriage was both a human rights issue and an equality issue deserved critical scrutiny. "Care should be taken not to over-extend the definition of human rights, which override democracy, and which can only be adjudicated on in the courts," Dr Mansergh wrote.
"In this instance, the people are being asked to confer the right to marry on two persons of the same gender, so as, it is argued, to establish marriage equality, despite obvious differences in situation," he added.
Dr Mansergh insisted that prejudice against homosexual people had no place in the discussions. "No one wants to succour prejudice. We should value couples willing to devote themselves to each other long-term, regardless of gender sameness or difference," he wrote.
"Legal rights and protections have been put in place, and public attitudes today are more disposed to inclusion than exclusion, so a huge song and dance about public figures 'coming out' should not be necessary," he added.
Dr Mansergh argued that most advocates of change rarely admit that they are seeking something against religious teachings and beliefs about the good of society. "On the other hand, those who hold to the Christian ideal of marriage need to explain better how it will be undermined if civil partners are allowed to marry, and how, if people's sexuality is a given not a choice, the great majority of people will be affected," he said.
The former Fianna Fáil junior minister urged a fair and well-mannered debate on the referendum due to be held in May. He argued that a referendum vote by the people was better than it being decided by the law courts and change could not be forced by a minority party in a coalition.
"No one should be under any illusions, however. The referendum is a dry run for a sequel, the repeal of the eighth (pro-life) amendment, if politicians need no longer fear religious factors weighing on voters," Dr Mansergh concluded.
Dr Mansergh advised Taoisigh Charles Haughey, Albert Reynolds and Bertie Ahern and was a key figure in the Northern Ireland peace negotiations. He was also Junior Finance Minister from 2008-2011.