Friday 15 November 2019

Psychologist's 'Nazi' remarks spark fury of 'No' campaign

Clinical psychologist Maureen Gaffney speaking at the Yes Equality press conference yesterday. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Clinical psychologist Maureen Gaffney speaking at the Yes Equality press conference yesterday. Photo: Fergal Phillips

Mark O'Regan

A leading psychologist has sparked fury after claiming a 'No' vote risks sleep-walking the country into "undoing the progress we've made as a Republic".

Dr Maureen Gaffney, who is a regular commentator on television and radio, brought Nazi Germany into the debate yesterday as she argued that it would be a backward step to oppose the referendum.

"In Nazi Germany, nationals with German blood were not allowed marry Jewish people. In southern States in America until 1967, interracial marriage was banned. In apartheid South Africa, interracial marriage was banned.

"I'm not drawing direct comparisons, we're far from that here, but I ask you, what is the difference excluding a whole raft of ordinary people who are gay or lesbian?"

"It is just another form of the same oppression," she said at a Yes Equality event in Dublin.

"For most of my career, I've worked with families, couples and children. And I've been deeply troubled by the way the campaign has been run by some elements on the 'No' side.

"I can only describe what's happened as a kind of 'guilt by association' campaign," she said, adding: "I can say without hesitation there is not one single study in literature that shows any significant difference in the emotional, educational and social development of children who are reared by gay and lesbian couples."

But Professor Patricia Casey said: "What Dr Gaffney has said is appalling and must be withdrawn immediately.

"She puts opposition to same-sex marriage on precisely the same moral level as Nazism and racism. Her comments show a total lack of respect for those voting 'No'."

And the group Mothers and Fathers Matter (MFM) issued a statement last night condemning the comments relating to Nazi Germany and South Africa.

"Maureen Gaffney cannot say that she is not drawing comparisons with Nazi Germany, and then, in the very same sentence ask what the difference between current Irish law and the laws of Nazi Germany or apartheid South Africa are.

"Asking the question implies that she sees no difference."

MFM said that the fact that Ms Gaffney made the remarks at an official 'Yes' campaign event "beggars belief" and "requires immediate clarification".

"We call on Yes Equality to distance themselves from these comments, and to clarify Ms Gaffney's role with their campaign," the group said.

Ms Gaffney was speaking alongside the chief executive of Barnardos, Fergus Finlay.

He hit out at campaigners on the 'No' side who he said were peddling "politics of fear" by using "cynical and dishonest" tactics to scare the electorate.

He said they were trying to "manipulate people's anxieties and worries" in ways that were "simply not substantiated by facts", adding that people spreading mistruths must be challenged "day in, day out".

"If people want to tell distorted versions of the truth about this, it has to be challenged. They've been given a pretty easy ride for some of that in a lot of the media. We have tried to debate this in terms of values and honesty and issues.

"We have to start naming some of these tactics for what they are. It is the politics of fear; there's far too much of it going on," he said.

MFM responded that Mr Finlay was "entitled to his opinion on this referendum, but he was not entitled to make things up as he goes along".

Irish Independent

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