The secret life of a 'No' voter may haunt Official Ireland yet
This comment posted online last week probably sums up what quite a lot of people are thinking to themselves in the run-up to the marriage referendum on May 22.
The person wrote: "I'm voting 'No'. Don't give a doo doo. I'll say in public that I'm voting 'Yes', because who needs the hassle of ten thousand angry dweebs raining dog's abuse down on you?...Vote 'No', and don't be scared to vote 'No'. And when the result is a 'No', look sad and express your sympathies, but know that there'll be lots of other fellas and lassies standing around doing the same who voted 'No' too."
Let's call this person a secret 'No' voter. How many secret 'No' voters are out there? For the sake of the 'Yes' side they had better be few in number. Why do these secret 'No' voters feel they have to stay secret? The anonymous poster explains it perfectly. Who needs the hassle? They're staying silent because they don't want to be denounced.
I can't remember the last referendum campaign like this one for the sheer abuse poured out on opponents of the proposition.
The one that comes closest is probably the 1983 pro-life referendum when opponents were often subjected to abuse and intimidation. But go online and see what is meted out to anyone who dares to say publicly that they're voting 'No'. It is off the Richter scale. In addition to an army of internet trolls, you have the whole of Official Ireland against you. All the political parties are on the 'Yes' side. Almost all of the media, to a greater or less extent. Every State-funded NGO seems to be on the 'Yes' side.
Woe betide any celebrity or sports star who doesn't say "I'm voting Yes" if asked. But you have to wonder, of the celebs and sports stars who have so far said they're voting 'Yes', how many of them realise they are actually voting for a vision of the family that says mothers and fathers are of no special value to children?
How many of them really believe it would make no difference to their own children whether they were raised by them and their spouse, as distinct from two fathers or two mothers?
I received a call the other day from the owner of a coffee shop. He was asked to display a 'Yes' poster. He didn't want to but was worried that if he didn't there might be consequences. No one should ever have to fear loss of business because he won't take sides in a referendum campaign. The hi-tech giants led by Twitter have called for a 'Yes' vote. We were told it would be good for business and good for our reputation. Germany doesn't have same-sex marriage though, and despite this apparently terrible threat to its productivity, it remains the second most powerful economy in the world.
The Australian economy has been going like a train for more than 20 years, but Australia doesn't have same-sex marriage either. How can an economy possibly thrive without it? Can Twitter Inc please explain?
Members of An Garda Siochana have turned up at 'Yes' campaign voter-registration drives at various universities. The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has called for a 'Yes' vote.
An Post put out an LGBT stamp which its designer said was in support of a 'Yes' vote.
'Yes' campaign floats turned up in St Patrick's Day parades in various parts of the country.
Mary McAleese has come out in support of a 'Yes' vote, thereby breaking with the tradition of other past presidents, including Mary Robinson, a tradition that says past presidents should stay above the fray.
RTÉ has been running one soft interview after another with gay celebs and semi-celebs. They classify these as 'entertainment' and want us to believe this means they escape from the requirement to be balanced.
Don't be surprised if there is a major TV interview with Ms McAleese and her son Justin (who came out as gay in an article in this newspaper last Saturday) shortly before May 22.
There was, to be sure, a bit of a fuss about gardaí turning up at those 'Yes' campaign voter- registration drives but precious little fuss about anything else.
This is because Official Ireland is conspiring with itself to allow every individual part of Official Ireland to break with normal protocol, protocols aimed for the most part at ensuring fairness in major public debates.
If gardaí turned up to help at a voter registration drive by Fianna Fáil, every other party would scream blue murder. (No pun intended). If the GRA told its members to vote pro-life there would be blue murder.
If a past president of Ireland said 'vote pro-life', there would be outraged editorials up and down the land. If the head of Twitter said 'vote pro-life' he would be told to mind his own business.
And so it goes.
University campuses have been swallowed whole by 'Yes' campaigners. No doubt a big majority of students are voting 'Yes', but as one student told me the other day, the level of conformity is completely stifling.
Aren't universities supposed to be places where freedom of expression is valued? That freedom means absolutely nothing if it only applies to popular views.
The last time Ireland was subjected to groupthink of this intensity was during the property boom. Is there any hope of resisting what Official Ireland is throwing at us from every direction? The 'Yes' side are strong favourites with the bookies.
That's understandable given the 'Yes' side's formidable lead in the polls and the fact that every major institution bar a mostly quiet Catholic Church is firmly in their camp. If past referendum campaigns are any guide, however, then they can be beaten. We saw big leads overturned in the Oireachtas Inquiries Referendum and in the Seanad referendum.
Four weeks out from the Children's Rights referendum in 2012, the 'Yes' side were on 74pc percent versus 4pc for the 'No' side.The 'Yes' side massively outspent the 'No' side. The 'Yes' side did win on the day, but the 'No' vote grew from 4pc to 42pc, silently and without warning.
The same could happen this time. 'No' voters and waverers will stay silent for the most part out of fear of being denounced as 'bigots' for the 'crime' of believing in the family of man, woman and child based on marriage.
The 'No' side can win though, and if it does, it will be a victory for common sense and the severest rebuff for Official Ireland, which is willing to break every normal protocol to secure a 'Yes' vote.