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'There isn't a celebrity in the country who would dare come out and say they're voting No'

There was a heated debate on the upcoming referendum between Ronan Mullen and Simon Coveney this morning.

rrr Simon Coveney and Ronan Mullen Source: Photocall

FINE GAEL’S SIMON Coveney and Independent Senator Rónán Mullen went head to head to debate the upcoming marriage equality referendum on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.

Starting off calm, the debate soon heated up in the studio, with Mullen telling people they couldn’t trust the government to debate the issue, and Coveney stating the no side were using scare tactics in their campaign.

Coveney, who is Fine Gael’s director for the referendum, said as a happily married man with three children of his own, he had no issue voting yes as it is “right for society”.

“Young people who are gay need to be encouraged and supported by the state and their relationship needs to be recognised as equal too,” said Coveney. 

He said by excluding same-sex couples from marriage, excludes them from constitutional protections and discriminates against them.

Children’s rights

Mullen said that referendum discriminates against children, adding that civil partnership is already in existence for same-sex couples:

“You’d swear civil partnership wasn’t there.”

He maintained that the referendum will deny a child, in advance, the right to a mother and a father, something Coveney stated was not true.

Mullen said people who wanted to vote no were being made to feel like “homophobes” by going against the referendum. 

“The spin started with calling this marriage equality referendum… designed to make people feel like homophobes if they vote No.”

The senator claimed surrogacy is an issue in this referendum, stating:

…. the last bit of mothering they will have is the nine months they will have in the womb.

Referendum on marriage 

Coveney said this was an “outrageous” statement to make, saying the the question being asked is not about parents accessing children, but about marriage. 

“It is a really important issues and needs strong legislation to protect the child and they have that in the Child and Family Relationships Bill,” said Coveney. 

He said the question being asked in May is straight forward, stating it does not redefine marriage or change it, but allows a group of people who are “locked out” of it take part.

“Mmarriage is not going to change on what turns out in May 22.”

Coveney said he wanted to able to support any of his children in marriage, whether they are gay or not.

The debate raged on with both sides criticising each other for their debating style:

Coveney said Mullen was portraying that the referendum was some sort of conspiracy by government. He pointed out that all the mainstream political parties supported a yes vote.

He told Mullen that Taoiseach Enda Kenny would be debating the issues, but no dates had been set.

“Do not take away the right to a mother and a father,” said Mullen.

He added that the government’s behaviour had been “arrogant” and by voting no the public would be sending them back to the drawing board.

Coveney said that the referendum will not copper-fasten anyone’s rights on surrogacy, either heterosexual or homosexual couples, stating: 

“We will have to legislate on all issues on surrogacy.”

He said it was not acceptable that it is unregulated in Ireland.

He said the no campaign were using the issues of children and surrogacy as they know they are “emotive” issues.

Coveney said the people are being asked to be generous with marriage.

He said that result won’t impact on those already in a traditional marriage, but said there are people “desperately waiting” to be given the right to marry. “They deserve a yes vote.”

Mullen said the people are “entitled to vote no and don’t have to feel guilty about it”.

Read: NI health minister apologises for anti-gay remarks and resigns>

Read: Huge outpouring of support as Irish Times journalist Una Mullally reveals cancer diagnosis>

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