Friday 19 July 2019

Concern grows that surrogacy fears could sink 'Yes' campaign

Tánaiste Joan Burton canvassing with Kevin Humphries TD and a dog Oscar, at the Docklands Festival in Grand Canal Dublin yesterday
Tánaiste Joan Burton canvassing with Kevin Humphries TD and a dog Oscar, at the Docklands Festival in Grand Canal Dublin yesterday

Daniel McConnell, Nicola Anderson and Sarah MacDonald

There is mounting unease within the 'Yes' campaign that uncertainty around the issue of surrogacy could see Friday's same-sex marriage referendum defeated.

With five days to go until polling day, the Government and the 'Yes' campaign are to target key media events to try to address doubt of wavering voters on issues of surrogacy and adoption.

Tuesday's final RTÉ 'Prime Time' debate is seen as 'make or break' for the 'Yes' side to nail what they see as attempts by the 'No' side to distort the true meaning of the referendum.

It comes as Health Minister Leo Varadkar today makes an impassioned plea to wavering voters and people of faith not to vote out of fear.

In the wake of several polls in the Sunday newspapers which showed a drop in support for the proposal, Mr Varadkar strongly rejects the claim that a 'Yes' vote is trying to redefine the religious meanings of marriage.

Writing in today Irish Independent he said: "To those many people of faith in our society I would make one point. This referendum does not seek to redefine the Christian, Muslim, Jewish or any other religious understanding of marriage, or their rules on marriage. This will - as it should and must - remain a matter exclusively for those religions to decide.

"There are many good people who are thinking of voting 'No'. My message is clear: vote whatever way your own thoughts and feelings dictate. Never feel like you have to explain your decision, or apologise for it. That's your right. It's fundamental to our Republic and our democracy."

Labour Minister Alex White accepted the Government had failed to address the issue of regulating surrogacy.

"Yes, as a society I take the criticism that this Government and previous governments, that we haven't dealt with this issue of surrogacy. The vast majority of people who avail of surrogacy are infertile heterosexual couples, so to lay this issue at the door of this referendum is disingenuous," he added.

"How people vote this Friday will have no bearing on what we decide to do with surrogacy. It won't bring surrogacy one bit closer if you vote 'Yes' or if you vote 'No'. The two things are separate questions."

His party leader and Tánaiste Joan Burton said a 'Yes' vote would be "good for Ireland and good for Irish society".

The Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise has said he was being told by people in his diocese that they were afraid to admit publicly they are voting 'No' in the referendum.

Bishop Francis Duffy said fear was "a feature of the campaign".

Asked about the 'Sunday Independent' poll findings showing a drop in support for a 'Yes' vote and a large cohort of undecided voters, the Bishop said "there are a few days yet and it is unpredictable what will happen" as more and more people make up their minds".

He added: "We can't predict what the result will be; opinion polls are not always reliable - we saw that in the British election."

Irish Independent

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