What lies ahead for marriage in Ireland?
BY MICHAEL COOK
For supporters of natural marriage, the results of Ireland’s referendum last Friday are obviously a great disappointment. A resounding majority throughout the country supported the addition of 17 momentous words to the Irish constitution: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”
The result was not as overwhelming as the victors claim. On a 60 percent voter turnout, 62 percent voted Yes. That’s only 36 percent of eligible voters. And contrary to what some pundits have said, it was a respectable turnout but hardly a record. In 1972 there was a 72 percent turnout for a referendum on joining the European Communities (the predecessor of the European Union); in 1992, there was a 68 percent turnout on abortion; and in 2009 there was a 59 percent turnout for the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
In fact, also contrary to the pundits, politics energises the Irish more than love. Voter turnout in the 2011 parliamentary election was 70 percent.
But the difference between a win and a loss is just one vote and the Yes side won. The fact that 64 percent of the electorate voted No or voted not at all matters not a jot.
Who is to blame for the loss? In an overwhelmingly Catholic country, the Catholic Church is blaming itself. The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, told the media that it needed to take a “reality check” after the Yes victory.
“It’s a social revolution that’s been going on, and perhaps in the church people have not been as clear in understanding what that involved. It’s very clear that if this referendum is an affirmation of the views of young people, then the church has a huge task in front of it to find the language to be able to talk to and to get its message across to young people, not just on this issue, but in general…
“Most of these young people who voted Yes are products of our Catholic schools for 12 years,” he said. “There’s a big challenge there to see how we get across the message of the church... That doesn’t mean that we renounce our teaching on fundamental values on marriage and the family. Nor does it mean that we dig into the trenches. We need to find...a new language which is fundamentally ours, that speaks to, is understood and becomes appreciated by others.”
The Archbishop is right. Supporters of natural marriage failed to make an appealing case. As an instituion, marriage has been on the skids in Ireland for decades and Friday's result was a natural result. It wasn’t the gays who trashed marriage; it was the straights.