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Pride: Joan Freeman's daughter 'comes out' to try to silence Iona links

  

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Campaign trail: Presidential candidate Joan Freeman with her daughter Aislinne (left) and Aislinne’s partner Marieke Altena at the Pavilions Shopping Centre in Swords. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Campaign trail: Presidential candidate Joan Freeman with her daughter Aislinne (left) and Aislinne’s partner Marieke Altena at the Pavilions Shopping Centre in Swords. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Campaign trail: Presidential candidate Joan Freeman with her daughter Aislinne (left) and Aislinne’s partner Marieke Altena at the Pavilions Shopping Centre in Swords. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Joan Freeman's daughter, Aislinne, has revealed for the first time that she is in a same-sex relationship, fiercely rebuffing claims that her mother is a right-wing conservative.

From the beginning of the presidential campaign, she said she had been exasperated by the claims that her mother has links with the Iona Institute, the socially conservative group that campaigned for a No vote in the marriage referendum.

Freeman has insisted she is not involved with Iona - but that is as far as she has gone publicly with the issue.

Out on the campaign hustings at the Pavilions Shopping Centre in Swords, Co Dublin, Aislinne introduced the blonde woman by her side as her partner, Marieke Altena, who comes from the Blue Mountains area outside Sydney, Australia.

The couple met in Geneva when they were both working for the World Health Organisation.

Aislinne (32) has a doctorate in psychology and works as a health consultant, while Marieke works for the HSE.

Both women are very keen to put paid to the rumours of the Iona Institute link and to end the damage they fear it has done to Freeman's presidential campaign.

"Do you think she'd be involved with them, given their views?" asked Aislinne.

"That's not the kind of person she is. She is the most tolerant person I know."

Aislinne went on to reveal that, two years ago, she came out to her mother after starting her relationship with Marieke and that Freeman had "the best reaction" out of all the parents of anyone she knows in the LGBT community.

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"She told me that she loves me and that all she wanted was for me to be happy," she says.

Aislinne said she pleaded with her mother to publicly reveal her relationship with Marieke in the context of the Iona Institute accusations - but that Freeman had refused, insisting she did not want to use family members in the campaign.

"She wants to protect the family - but we are coming out and saying it now ourselves," said Aislinne.

"She is 100pc supportive of us as a couple," she continued - with a wry quip that, in fact, her mother keeps asking: "So when are the two of you getting married?"

Asked how she felt Freeman's presidential campaign was going, Aislinne said she had faith in the electorate and believed "people will go out and vote for a better Ireland".

"Joan has kept her integrity and dignity and we are all so proud of her," she said. "She has done herself justice."

However, she admitted that the debates had been frustrating because all the talk has been about "the loan and Iona" and that nobody wants to talk about her vision.

"It's frustrating because Joan has so much to offer," she said.

At the Pavilions, Freeman received a warm reception, with a sizeable number of people coming up to tell her that they had been personally helped by Pieta House, the organisation she set up to prevent suicide and self-harm.

One man revealed he had left hospital only a week ago after a relapse.

"I wouldn't be here now if it wasn't for Pieta House," he said.

He spoke highly of Freeman, but worries that she may be a loss to Pieta House if she won the presidency.

"But I don't mean that in a derogatory way," he said. "I think she's a great person."

Another woman revealed that her daughter made an attempt to take her own life at the age of 16.

"She wouldn't be here if Pieta House hadn't done all they could for her," she said.

Her daughter is now 31 and though she still suffers from depression, was confident enough in herself to stand up and make a speech at her wedding, she added.

Luighse Rutherford gave Freeman a copy of a book of new short stories, 'A Bowl of Irish Stew', that her father Gary has written, with all the proceeds going to Pieta House. With a print run of 1,000 copies, he hopes to raise €10,000.

"When my dad heard Joan was going to be here, he asked me to come down and give it to her," said Luighse.

Earlier, at the Stillorgan Shopping Centre in south Co Dublin, Freeman took a break from the hustings to go for a cup of coffee.

She became emotional as she revealed she left the last televised presidential debate feeling "deflated" in herself, after launching an attack on Michael D Higgins and Seán Gallagher.

"I'm not an aggressive person but I was aggressive - and it was my own fault," she said.

"The environment can be so toxic that it brings out something that's not real," she said, adding that she believed it is the competition.

"But I won't be doing that again.

"I was just trying to do my best in a difficult environment - I don't think it's anyone's natural environment," she said, asking why "should the environment be there to humiliate people?"

She believes that the way campaigns are fought needs to completely change, saying people had made their minds up before any of the candidates had spoken and that the Government had made its mind up.

"The whole thing needs to change," she said, adding that she worried young people might be put off from running in the next presidential election.


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