There has been much scepticism about the Constitutional Convention and its potential to be effective. Essentially many feared that it was just a mere talking shop, a handy place for the Government to ‘park’ sensitive issues such as, for example, gay marriage. Yet on Sunday, 79 per cent of convention members voted to extend civil marriage rights to same sex couples in this country. Even in the light of a number of opinion polls indicating that over 70% of the public favour same-sex marriage, the ‘yes’ vote on Sunday was extraordinary.
It clearly showed that change is underway, and that the acceptance of same-sex marriage has gone, for what of a better word, “mainstream”. Too many people have seen their gay children, friends or neighbours discriminated against in myriad ways in so-called modern Ireland and they realise it is really time to address this issue.
The convention’s recommendation will now go before the Government before an Oireachtas debate is held on the matter.
Not everyone is happy, of course. Convention member Senator Ronan Mullen called the debate ‘a flawed process’ and made a number of serious allegations about the way the debate was handled, the information made available to convention members and he alleged attempts were made by unnamed politicians to curb the speaking time of others.
It is already clear that there will be significant opposition to any moves to legalise same sex marriage but there is a real sense that the tide has turned on this issue.
While the recommendation will not change anything, it is the start of a long journey that could potentially lead to same sex marriage in Ireland. It is a profound step forward for the rights of gay people, and their children. It was a good weekend for equality in this country and a good weekend for the Constitution Convention which proved itself to be far more than ‘a parking spot’ for contentious issues.