As time passes and we draw ever nearer to May's referendum, same-sex marriage is becoming a topic hot on the nation's lips. This referendum is not only about improving the rights of a minority group, it also relates to the country's ability to change the status quo comfortably.
In my opinion, this is not something easily done in Ireland, a country which, like many others, is in some respects quite settled in its ways; I have come across many people recently who don't understand the need to vote; not because they are intrinsically homophobic, but rather because they see no need to instil change and they feel it does not affect them directly. The ability to affect positive change, as a whole, is something that the people of this country need now more than ever in the wake of a difficult recession and hard government decisions.
All Irish people are directly affected. We live on a relatively small island consisting of many close-knit communities. Within each of these communities are LGBT people who are being denied the same basic rights and opportunities afforded to their heterosexual counterparts.
This affects each Irish person, because it affects all communities and the nation as a whole. We must also each think of our children, or potential future children, and consider their happiness. As a parent, I feel it is essential that my daughter be raised in a country where she is free to love who she chooses, regardless of sexual orientation, and that she has the opportunity to express that love through marriage. This referendum is close to my heart for another reason - I grew up with gay parents. I had a very happy childhood and still have a wonderful relationship with my parents. The idea that I could choose to go out tomorrow and get married, but that my parents could not, saddens me immensely.
Unfortunately, this is not the worst aspect of the current inequality. We live in a society which gives great power to the union of marriage, in particular a legal power, and yet does not allow many of its citizens to get married. Currently, non-biological parents in same-sex parent families are not legally recognised as being related to the children they are raising.
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The Irish response to the terrible tragedy unfolding in the Mediterranean is deplorable in its inadequacy, particularly so for a country which has the words 'Coffin ships' hard-wired into its DNA.
Our hard-hearted and inefficient response to the crisis of the drowning migrants is tied up with our general response to dealing with Africans seeking succour within our shores; we don't refuse them, we simply keep them kicking around in unsuitable accommodation, transferring them from place to place whenever they start making friends or show signs of putting down roots.
But it is not possible to keep people swimming around the Mediterranean - that is if they know how to swim after their leaking and dangerous ships capsize.
In my view, without putting a tooth in it, the Irish attitude to African migrants is underpinned by prejudice. It's time for the Government to stop fiddling around with this issue and in the name of both history and humanity let us show something of the spirit we once demonstrated at the UN and other fora in our foreign policy, before the siren call of the EU gravy train derails us.
Tim Pat Coogan
Glenageary, Co Dublin
European authorities must shoulder some of the blame for the latest Mediterranean boat tragedy, in which hundreds of desperate migrants lost their lives.
At the heart of this catastrophe is a blasé attitude from the EU, whose lack of funding has led to inaction in dealing with the misery of human trafficking. Ireland, too, should hang its head in shame for it was we who prompted the EU to bring into law what is known as "the Dublin Law" which forces asylum seekers to apply for asylum in their first country of entry.
By doing, this Ireland has ensured that refugees seeking asylum in the EU will mainly be a concern for the Mediterranean countries. They have effectively done a Pontius Pilate with the problem. We cannot pretend that trafficking of migrants is a recent phenomenon, given that last year alone, more than 3,000 Syrians died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean.
The desperation of these refugees manifests itself in the risks that they take.
The EU must get its act together and deal severely with those who profit by trafficking desolate people. And each country with a capacity to do so should show compassion by taking their share of genuine refugees.
Dunleer, Co Louth
In this period of significant anniversaries, yet another important milestone will be marked on May 22 when former employees of the Irish Press Group will get together to mark 20 years since the company closed down.
The 'Irish Press', 'Evening Press' and 'Sunday Press' were among Ireland's premier newspapers when the company shut its doors with the loss of 650 jobs, not to mention the hundreds of freelance staff and suppliers of services who were also badly affected.
The reunion of all those who worked in the Press Group will take place in the Teachers' Club, at 36 Parnell Square West, at 7pm, May 22, when an enjoyable night of renewing friendships, reminiscing and fun will be had.
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We need a Marshall Plan for Libya. The overthrow of the Gaddafi government has caused chaos and bloodshed there. One result is the stream of desperate people drowning in the Mediterranean as they flee the country.
The US, Europe and the Gulf States have the money, military power and other resources required to deliver a Marshall Plan. If they had the political will to do so, they could restore peace and prosperity to the country. British PM David Cameron should be leading the way.
London, N21 3AG, England
After reading Justin McAleese's article on being gay in Ireland (Irish Independent, Saturday, April 18), I feel compelled to respond to his claim that there would be fewer suicides if homosexuals could marry.
There are those who would argue that the rate of suicide among homosexuals is due to social ostracising, but the statistics hold steady even in countries such as the Netherlands, arguably the world's most tolerant place for homosexuals.
If suicide rates among gays are much higher than the rest of the population, even in countries where same-sex marriages are allowed, it is quite obvious that this type of marriage is not a remedy for suicide.
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