Sunday 25 March 2018

5 factors why the 'No' side lost

Counting gets under way for the Kilkenny by election in Kilkenny this morning.
Photo: Tony Gavin
Counting gets under way for the Kilkenny by election in Kilkenny this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin

David Kearns

As Ireland becomes the first country to embrace same-sex marriage via popular vote, polls are suggesting that final the outcome will be almost 2 to 1 in favour of Yes.

If this figure turns out to be true, how did the No campaign get it so wrong? Here is 5 reasons why:

1. The waning power of the Catholic Church

As recent as the 1980s, Ireland was still a deeply conservative, reactionary country. However, starting with revelations in the 1990s of terrible child abuse by some priests, and some state institutions, and the introduction of more liberal laws on contraception and divorce, the Church’s once unquestionable authority on social issues as all but collapsed.

2. The Youth Vote

Ireland’s population has been, and is, one of the youngest in Europe. Many of yesterday’s conservatives have raised children who have grown up in a far more liberal and tolerant Ireland.

3. The economic

The Celtic Tiger years enabled the majority of Irish people to enjoy their first real experience of sustained financial wellbeing.

Arguably this period helped modernised Irish society and attitudes quicker in the past 20 years than in the previous 80 because it opened up the country to new ideas and new ways of expressing itself.

4. Irish Mammies (and the rest of the family)

There has been an outpouring of emotion from the Yes side, from parents, grandparents, and all members of the family, saying that all they wanted for their sons, daughters, brothers and sisters is the same rights as every other Irish citizen.

That is a powerful message, and one that touched a lot of people because it asked a simple question: "How would you like your child to be treated?"

Often the No side struggled to portray their campaign as progressive and representative of modern Irish society.

The red herring issues of gay adoption and surrogacy might have done a lot to bring in undecided voters to the No side, but it, likely, did even more to drive people away as many felt the "Mothers and Fathers" campaigns targeted not just same-sex couples but single parents and many other non-traditional families in Ireland.

5. Burden of history

Marriage equality, and gay rights in general, is one of the biggest human rights issue in the world today.

To quote murdered US gay activist Harvey Milk, “It takes no compromise to give people their rights... it  takes no political deal to give people freedom.”

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