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No complaints to Convention over concerns about gay marriage hearings

Despite concerns raised by Senator Rónán Mullen and others, there were no formal complaints made to the Constitutional Convention about its recent hearings on same-sex marriage.

File photo
File photo
Image: Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Press Association Images

THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION received no formal complaints and overwhelmingly positive feedback from its hearings on the introduction of same-sex marriage in Ireland earlier this month.

The Convention confirmed this week that the “vast majority” of feedback from the hearings in Malahide two weeks ago was positive and confirmed there were no complaints made to it from Convention members about the conduct of the hearings or the process involved.

This comes despite Senator Rónán Mullen claiming within hours of the hearings ending that he spoke to “citizen members of the convention” who felt they had been pressured by politicians present to support a particular line.

The convention voted overwhelmingly in favour – 79 to 19 – of changing the law in Ireland to allow same-sex couples to get married but Mullen said there “was an element of peer pressure towards the end” of proceedings.

Convention chairman Tom Arnold had asked that anyone who was unhappy with the process to get in touch with him. But a spokesperson for the Constitutional Convention confirmed this week that no formal complaints have been made.

A statement said: “Of the 97 members present, 72 completed the survey which was designed to assess the quality of the expert opinion, and to highlight any issues of bias or dominance.

“The preliminary results show a very positive experience from the vast majority of members, who thought that the discussions were balanced and fair and that they were given ample opportunity to express views on all sides of the argument in a respectful environment.”

Mullen told TheJournal.ie that he maintained his position as outlined after the Convention two weeks ago, saying: “Several citizen members expressed concerns to me. It is a matter for people themselves to decide whether to complain or express concerns anonymously.

“Whether people feel they are being pressurised in any way, or made to feel awkward about expressing dissenting opinions, is a problem for the Convention to take  into account.”

Mullen would not specify exactly how many members expressed concerns to him or what specifically their concerns were but he said there was “a clear failure by the Convention to ensure a fully informed and balanced presentation of the issues”.

In a statement, Arnold said: “I made every effort to ensure equality of voice at all times during the course of the last weekend and I am pleased that the members overwhelming agreed with the way in which we approached this sensitive subject.

“The success of the Convention depends entirely on the commitment of the members and we will continue to learn from them as we make our way through the year-long work programme.”

The result of the vote among members of the convention two weeks ago saw 78 per cent call for the State to enact laws providing for same-sex marriage. The government has committed to responding to the Convention within four months of it submitting a report.

The next meeting of the Constitutional Convention is due to consider the Dáil electoral system and the way in which politicians are elected in Ireland.

Read: Norris claims Iona Institute ‘tried to mislead constitutional convention’

Read: Gilmore says State should not pass judgement on who people love

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Hugh O'Connell

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