Longford Westmeath Fine Gael TD James Bannon has declined to be drawn as to which way he voted during the weekend’s Constitutional Convention vote on same sex marriages, despite over three quarters of delegates backing its introduction.
Seventy-nine per cent of members voted in favour of a constitutional change with 18 representatives opting against proposals to legislate for gay marriage in Ireland.
One of over 30 politicians on its panel, Mr Bannon was giving nothing away as to his own views when contacted by the Leader this week.
“I won’t be giving anything away,” he said stoutly. “It was a secret vote and I have never been one to divulge the contents of such ballots.”
The Fine Gael backbencher did nonetheless, express his firm belief behind upholding what he termed “equal rights”, but stopped short of indicating which way he intended voting ahead of any upcoming referendum.
“I have always seen it (gay marriage debate) as a social issue. When the referendum, comes around I will be encouraging people to vote according to their conscience. This is the way I would feel and I don’t want to pre-empt any decision at this stage,” he said.
Set up last year, the Constitutional Convention has been assigned the duty of debating a string of topics, ranging from reducing the presidential term of office and increasing the participation of women in politics.
No date has emerged from those discussions as to when government leaders intend holding any future referendum on same sex marriages.
One reason is believed to be linked to other pressing issues, most notably the promise of the Fine Gael/Labour coalition’s pledge to publish new abortion laws in July.
Having previously aired his opinions on what has become a deeply sensitive political talking point, Mr Bannon repeated those concerns over the weekend.
“I am happy that I live in a country that has so far not allowed abortion,” he said. “I fully understand we (government) are in a difficult position due to the Supreme Court ruling on the X case but I am very concerned at the prospect of any law or regulation that might lead to abortion on demand in this country.”
It’s expected any new framework will provide clear procedures enabling pregnant women to determine whether they are entitled to a lawful abortion. The statutory terms of reference will also afford a defence for doctors from criminal prosecution without making abortion accessible for personal or social purposes.