Should there be cause for serious unease amongst us, ordinary people, where there is absolute unanimity between our political representatives in the Dail? When there is not a whisper of dissent or disagreement between them? Does it feel a bit - well - unnatural?
Michael Coady, the writer, historian and member of Aosdana, has raised the issue of this unanimity on the subject of the proposed referendum on same-sex marriage, in an open letter (The Nationalist, February 5) addressed to our local TDs, Tom Hayes, Mattie McGrath and Seamus Healy and to Senators Labhras O Murchu and Denis Landy.
Coincidentally, ‘The Irish Times’ (February 7) reported that ‘Middle Ireland’ is to be ‘targeted’ in a campaign to obtain a Yes vote. For ‘Middle Ireland’ read, according to the report, ‘Ireland beyond Naas’ and for ‘targeting’, according to my Chambers Dictionary, read ‘the object of an attack....a take-over bid’. The reason given for this chilling prospect is the fact that, while an 80 per cent Yes vote is predicted, the 20 per cent No vote is located out there in the Dark Ages of Middle Ireland.
As a Middle Irelander (presumably of Neanderthal extraction) and a twenty percenter, it seems to me that it is about time that we heard the views of our local elected representatives on the very serious subject of changing the status of the institution of marriage as we know it. It is an institution which is as old as recorded time. It has served civilized society well, and for which no alternative has yet been identified.
Any of the dictionaries which I have looked at reveal the same definition of Marriage. It is a contract between a man and a woman living together, with the potential for having children. It is a contract which is legally acknowledged by the State, which undertakes to protect it.
And now, in Ireland, we are being asked to change that man-woman age-old definition of marriage to one which includes same-sex marriage - man-man, woman-woman. Why, in view of our recently implemented, and widely welcomed, legislation on civil-partnership, is this necessary? This legislation involves a contractual agreement, the legality of which is acknowledged by the State and the status of which is now recognised by ordinary people living in ordinary communities.
The Revenue authorities have made provision for such partnerships, in the same way as provision has been made for a heterosexual marriage. The nature of the contract obviously allows for choices in inheritance, the making of a will, the joint ownership of property: all the legalities of a traditional man-woman marriage.
Anecdotally, it would seem that the celebration of a civil partnership is marked by all the appendages of a traditional marriage - flowers, music, a party, friends - the lot.
The fundamental difference between civil partnership and marriage is, of course, in the biological impediment of same sex unions to reproduce children. For this, a third party has to be introduced into the union. But the existing partnership legislation does allow for the adoption of children.
So, now, that all the legal and civil rights of same-sex unions have been copper-fastened in our Irish law, why are we being asked to change the definition of marriage? Why is Middle Ireland about to be invaded by the powers-that-be in the targeting of the twenty-per-cent of us whom, they perceive, will vote No. Why, with a predicted majority of eighty-percent Yes vote, are they about to waste their sweetness on the desert air of our fuddy-duddy conservatism, our old-fashioned dyed in the wool, hidebound traditionalism? And the answer is - the pursuit of ‘Equality’.
It seems to me that our only shared access to equality resides in the protection of our human rights under the laws of the land. Otherwise, some form of inequity is part of the human lot. We are all different: some talented, some bereft of talents, some rich, some poor, some healthy, some handicapped. Equality is a variable. “It’s not fair” was a recurrent complaint when someone cheated in the children’s playground, and to which our wise mothers would reply - “Just get on with it”.
On reading Michael Coady’s open letter to our local representatives, I thought: “How brave - he has raised his head above the parapet” This response speaks for itself. Reasonable debate, civilized conversation, balanced analysis of the proposed legislation have all been prohibited, nipped in the bud, by a number of factors.
These include a very voracious and unchallenged lobby, with which a section of the media (east of Naas) has uncritically concurred. There has been, as Michael Coady has written, the sustained self-censoring pressure of Political Correctness, which labels and name-calls any questioning. (Listen to the censorious tones used in interviews with members of the Iona Institute). And there has been the extraordinary and quite unprecedented agreement between every party in the Dail. To all of which now add the proposed targeting of Middle Ireland, a place where some poor souls dwell in anticipation of enlightenment.
As a dedicated reader of ‘The Nationalist’, I cannot recall any issue which did not contain a report, or a number of reports, on the contributions which our South Tipperary Oireachtas members have made to our Dail debates, or on matters pertinent to the local or national economy. Their ideas and comments get good local coverage.
Yet on the proposed important legislation to change the nature and definition of marriage, there has not been a comment, not a word. All have been uncharacteristically silent. It is a silence that is, frankly, scary.