TWO LABOUR MEPS have said that the government should hold a referendum on same-sex marriage on the same date as the local and European elections next May.
The call from Emer Costello and Phil Prendergast comes as the Cabinet is expected to make a decision on when to hold a referendum on legalising marriage between same-sex couples on foot of a recommendation from the Constitutional Convention.
One minister, Leo Varadkar, suggested last week that the referendum could be held next year to coincide with the council and European Parliament elections, but the vote could be pushed out to 2015 or even 2016.
While Labour, including Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, has been pushing for a vote in the lifetime of this government, Fine Gael appears to less keen, amid worries of a referendum fatigue and possible dissension on the backbenches coming so soon after the divisive vote on the abortion bill.
In a statement yesterday Costello and Prendergast said that the referendum should be held on the same date as next year’s elections which are scheduled to take place between 22 and 25 May.
Costello said the low voter turnout in the two recent referenda – below 40 per cent – means there would be greater voter participation if the vote is held on the same day as the elections.
“In addition, there will also be some savings from operational costs associated with running referenda and elections,” she said.
Prendergast said there are lessons to be learned from the Children’s Referendum a year ago and the votes on the Seanad and Court of Appeal last month.
She said: “Low voter turnout demonstrates a disengagement by the majority of voters in referenda. This cannot be ignored in planning for a plebiscite on same-sex marriage.”