Taoiseach Enda Kenny has signalled that he will not take part in a televised debate with the No side ahead of the marriage equality referendum.
The move angered members of the No side who accused Mr Kenny of reneging on his word.
Mr Kenny said he did not want to make the referendum a “party political debate” as he launched Fine Gael’s campaign for a Yes vote yesterday.
“I’ve no intention of turning it into a party political debate. It’s not that kind of referendum,” he said.
“What the No side are doing is they are deliberately involving issues which they know are not central to the question.
“The question is about civil marriage, it’s about giving equality to people all over the country.”
The move is at odds with remarks Mr Kenny made some months ago, saying he would be willing to take part in debates on the issue.
Mr Kenny used the Fine Gael launch to describe his own “personal journey” that brought him to support same-sex marriage.
Mr Kenny said that a Yes vote on May 22 could be “the making of us as a nation”.
“I have had to travel my own personal journey to believing in and campaigning for marriage equality. I saw and understood their desire and demand for equality,” he said.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who became the first openly gay cabinet minister when he came out in January, said he would be “devastated” if the referendum falls.
Mothers And Fathers Matter, a group that is call-ing for a No vote next month, hit out at Mr Kenny for avoiding a televised debate.
A spokesperson for the group said: “In January, Mr Kenny said he would be ‘happy to debate’ this proposal live on air with opponents.
“When he made that promise, he knew full well that there would not be ‘party political’ opposition to the referendum, so for him to try and use that excuse now to avoid a debate reeks of a naturally occurring form of fertiliser.
“Does he really think people will believe that there’s nobody good enough to debate him? The Irish people are being presented with a dishonest campaign that says marriage has nothing to do with children, a campaign that says motherhood and fatherhood don’t matter, and a campaign that says that the family in the Constitution can mean anything that the Government wants it to mean.
“That the Taoiseach can’t be trusted by his own staff to defend these ideas should tell voters everything they need to know.”
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