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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 15 November, 2018
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Opinion: Same-sex marriage will be decided by the silent (possibly disinterested) majority

I am not gay, none of my close relations are gay, and very few of my friends are gay. So I’ve struggled with the question “how does this affect me?”

Neale Richmond

AS YOU CAN imagine, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are populated largely by political postings and in recent weeks they have been increasingly filled with passionate arguments for, and even occasionally against, what was become officially known as the Referendum on Marriage Equality. However, despite all these posts, I am struggling to care, and I feel bad.

I have no doubt that in the coming weeks I will help out with the campaign, like I do with all campaigns. I will drop leaflets, put up posters, knock on doors and on the day I will vote and I will vote Yes, but I am worried. If I was not a politician and if I was not predisposed to be fascinated with current affairs, would I be bothered, would I care?

I should care and I want to care about this issue but, rather simply and obviously selfishly, I am struggling to be motivated as this issue does not directly affect me.

How does it affect me?

Former Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore referred to it as the last great civil rights issue; he is probably right but, being brutally honest, how does it affect me? I am not gay, none of my close relations are gay and very few of my friends are gay. This summer I will marry my fiancé and the process is quite straightforward – even if it requires notifying the registrar, meeting the clergyman and doing a pre-marriage course. That is all before we get started on flowers, the colours of bridesmaids dresses and which cousin sits beside which aunt – the really important stuff!

With all this in mind, I have been feeling very bad and I was worried to voice my concerns, in case in this ridiculously politically correct world I would be seen as out of step, insensitive and crucially ignorant.

But when I sat down and thought about it some more, I realised that here lies the crux of the campaign as it will evolve in the coming weeks. This referendum won’t be won by those that it directly affects or those who feel it directly affects them but, rather, it will be decided by the majority who quite simply, through no fault of their own, don’t feel as passionately about this issue.

The silent, possibly disinterested, majority

This is the challenge and this is why I have been thinking about this issue increasingly, the Yes campaign doesn’t need to get out its own, existing, impassioned vote. It doesn’t need to win over the likes of David Quinn or Breda O’Brien who will never be won over. It needs to target the silent, possibly disinterested, majority. The people who are not directly affected the people who aren’t up to speed with the issue… People like me and my mates.

I want this referendum to pass, not because it affects me, not because it has become the ‘done thing’ to be associated with this cause but because it is the right thing. However, in order for this referendum to pass, we need to motivate those who feel they are unaffected – the middle ground – that they can do something very simple that will make a massive difference to their fellow citizens. It’s time for the middle ground to stand up and be selfless; after all it only takes two minutes to vote.

Cllr Neale Richmond was first elected to Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council in 2009, he was re-elected in 2014.

Where is same-sex marriage legal?

‘Yes’ side enjoys massive lead in same-sex marriage debate, but how secure is it? – Poll

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Neale Richmond

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